Athletes are some of the healthiest people in the world, but sometimes they can put too much strain on their body which can lead to serious injuries, including back pain. While it might not seem like such a big deal at first, if not treated, back pain can become chronic and could even limit your athletic performance. Below you’ll discover four main causes of back pain in athletes and a handful of ways you can help avert it.

4 Frequent Causes of Back Pain in Athletes

Muscle Strain

Muscle strain is one of the most common types of back pain in athletes. No matter what type of sport one plays, the motions created during it can put pressure on your spine. Muscle strain is caused when an athlete twists their body in an awkward way which causes the muscle to tear or overstretch.

Slipped Discs

A slipped disc occurs when one of your spinal vertebrae moves out of place. When the disc slips, it will press along the nerves surrounding your spine. This can send shooting pain up and down your spinal cord which could lead to muscle numbness or tingling sensations throughout your arms and legs. This health concern is often evident in football players and weightlifters because they have to adjust their bodies in unique ways.


Spondylolysis occurs when there is extra stress put on your spine’s natural arch. Because of this, it will weaken the area which could lead to slipped discs. Over time, you’ll find if not treated, it will cause severe back pain that only gets worse as you move.

Bone Fractures

Bone fractures are caused when you put pressure on a certain joint or muscle for a long period of time. This will wear down the area making it more susceptible to fractures. You can usually tell if you’ve experienced a bone fracture because you’ll hear a loud snap. However, sometimes it’s not easy to tell if you have one. Instead, you might only feel pain when you put pressure on your spine or find certain spinal areas have significant swelling or bruising.

5 Ways Athletes Can Treat and Prevent Back Pain

Use Chiropractic Care

A great way to both treat and prevent back pain is to use chiropractic care. This holistic form of medicine works to correct any misalignments in your musculoskeletal system and prevent injuries in it. Over time, these adjustments will help to build your body up so it doesn’t get injured easily which can help you improve your performance. Some adjustments a chiropractor might use include the direct thrust technique, myofascial release, or cervical spine manipulation.

If you’re unable to decide whether you need chiropractic care or massage, you’ll find that chiropractic care incorporates massage therapy into its treatments. A massage not only relaxes you, but can reduce inflammation, increase your range of motion, and even prevent injuries. A common type that most chiropractors will use for athletes is the sports massage. A sports massage will use quick strokes to warm-up your body and increase fluid between the joints and muscles.

Try Low-Light Laser Therapy

Low-light laser therapy emits soft light waves that help to soothe aching muscles and reduce inflammation. This non-invasive option stimulates the fibroblasts which work to quickly repair and restore your connective tissues. During treatments, the laser will shine on the injured area for about a minute. The intensity of the light will depend on the severity of your problem. Keep in mind that for best results you will need to have this therapy done about twice a week.

Consume Anti-Inflammatory Food

Most of the time back pain is caused by inflammation. If you have inflammation when working out, it will make your back more prone to injuries, especially muscle strain. Because of this, it might be ideal to add more anti-inflammatory food to your diet. These not only provide important vitamins and minerals, but can prevent back pain and injuries.

Some of the best anti-inflammatory food to consume include:

  • Salmon
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Almonds
  • Green tea
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Olive oil
  • Cherries

Keep in mind that to help these foods work well, you also want to limit certain items in your diet that can cause inflammation. These are vegetable oils, high-fructose corn syrup, and saturated fats.

Apply Ice

Ice has been shown to help stop inflammation while reducing tingling nerves. Cold therapy is ideal to use if your back pain has suddenly occurred. This will help to quickly heal the problem while reducing the painful symptoms. You’ll want to put a wrapped ice pack on the area for about 15 minutes at a time.


Stretching can relax aching muscles and strengthen them. While you need to be careful to not overdo stretching, it can be very beneficial for back pain. Some simple stretches to try include knee-to-chest, cat-cow, pelvic tilts, and flexion rotations.

Back pain is a common problem in athletes, but it can be prevented. By keeping these tips in mind, you can stop back pain and keep your spine healthy.

About Dr. Wells

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. Besides spinal adjustment, his clinic has treated thousands of Juneau patients through physical therapy and massage therapy designed to help give long-lasting relief.

Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.



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