Low-back pain is frequently the source of missed playing time and disability in athletes. While a wide-range of treatment options exist, it can be difficult to discern which therapies will enable you to return to play as safely and as quickly as possible.
A recent study sought to determine which treatment option was the best for athletes with back pain. The researchers analyzed previous studies of low-back pain treatments, including application of cold or heat, ultrasound or laser treatments, traction therapy, electrical nerve stimulation, and lumbar supports or back braces. Acupuncture, massage, exercise therapy, physical therapy, and chiropractic care were also evaluated. The medications studied included steroid medications, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, opioids, antidepressants, and injection therapy.
Very few of the studied treatment modalities had clear evidence of effectiveness for athletes. Among the most effective treatments were superficial heat, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and skeletal muscle relaxants. Chiropractic spinal adjustments were found to have the strongest evidence of benefit, along with the lowest risk of side effects.
The researchers point out that back pain is a symptom with many causes, including ligament sprains, muscle strains, and soft-tissue contusions. Diagnosis of the cause of the pain must be reached before an appropriate treatment can be selected.
Whether you're recovering from an injury or suffering from non-specific pain, a doctor of chiropractic can help identify and treat the root of your back pain. Studies suggest that chiropractors can also help with the management of other sports injuries like hernias, shoulder impingement, and neck pain.
Petering R and Webb C. Treatment options for low back pain in athletes. Sports Health 2011; 3(6): 550–555.