You may play sports only rarely, play a sport on a regular basis, or play a sport at a competitive level. No matter how involved you are in a sport, consider these questions before returning to your sport after a back injury:
When you are deciding when and if to return to a sport after having low back pain, the amount of stress that any sport places on your spine is an important factor to consider. If you would like to return to a more intense sport or a contact sport, talk about whether you can safely do this with your health care provider and physical therapist. Contact sports or more intense sports may not be a good choice for you if you:
Doing any activity over too long a period of time can cause injury. Activities that involve contact, heavy or repetitive lifting, or twisting (especially when moving or at high-speed) can also cause injury.
See Back pain and sports for more about individual sports and your back.
These are some general tips about when to return to sports and conditioning. It may be safe to return to your sport when you have:
The type of back injury or problem you are recovering from is a factor for deciding when you can return to your sport. These are general guidelines:
Large muscles of your abdomen, upper legs, and buttocks attach to your spine and pelvic bones. They help stabilize and protect your spine during activity and sports. Weakness in these muscles may be part of the reason you first injured your back. After resting and treating your symptoms after your injury, these muscles will most likely be even weaker and less flexible.
Getting these muscles back to the point where they support your spine well is called core strengthening. Your health care provider and physical therapist will teach you exercises to strengthen these muscles. It is important to do these exercises correctly to prevent further injury.
Once you are ready to return to your sport:
When you are ready to begin the movements and actions involved in your sport, start slowly. Before going full force, take part in the sport at a less intense level. See how you feel that night and the next day before you slowly increase the force and intensity of your movements.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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