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Cutting-edge Management Techniques For Lower Back Pain Among Young Athletes

Lower back pain is a relatively common issue among athletes, including young athletes. It is a significant concern among the whole population. Several studies have reported that the prevalence of lower back pain among young athletes can range from 10% to as high as 50%, depending on the age group, sports, and study population.

Adolescents participating in sports are at risk of developing lower back pain, but often the causes are different than with adult sports people.

Sports involving repetitive, high-impact movements, such as gymnastics, rowing, weightlifting, and football, often have higher rates of lower back pain. Athletes participating in sports requiring trunk rotation or excessive spinal loadings, like golf or tennis, may also be at increased risk.

Why are young athletes more prone to lower back pain?

Young athletes are particularly susceptible to lower back pain due to rapid growth, skeletal immaturity, imbalances, poor technique, and inadequate core muscle strength. These factors can increase stress on the spine and contribute to the development of pain and injuries.
Psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, and fear of reinjury can also impact young athletes’ prevalence and severity of lower back pain. Additionally, sport-specific pressures, including high training volumes, competition, and performance expectations, can contribute to the development and persistence of pain.

What are the significant factors that make young athletes more susceptible to lower back pain?

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Growth and development: During adolescence, young athletes undergo rapid growth spurts, which can lead to muscular imbalances and structural changes in the body. These changes can stress the lower back, making it more susceptible to injury and pain.

Overuse and repetitive movements: Many young athletes engage in repetitive or sports-specific activities, such as gymnastics, tennis, or weightlifting. Doing these activities with proper rest and recovery can lead to muscle fatigue, strain, and overuse injuries in the lower back.

Weak core muscles: The core muscles, including the abdominal and back muscles, play a vital role in supporting the spine and maintaining proper posture. Weak core muscles can increase stress on the lower back, making it more susceptible to pain and injury.

Improper technique and training: Incorrect and poor training methods can place excessive stress on the lower back. Improper body mechanics, such as lifting heavy weights with a rounded back, can lead to strains, sprains, and other injuries.

Lack of flexibility and mobility: Limited flexibility and mobility in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back can contribute to lower back pain. Tight muscles can alter movement mechanics and increase stress on the lower back during physical activities.

Insufficient rest and recovery: Young athletes often have busy schedules with intense training, competitions, and school commitments. Adequate rest and recovery time can lead to muscle imbalances, fatigue, and increased risk of lower back pain.

Psychological factors: Psychological stress, performance anxiety, and pressure to excel in sports can contribute to muscle tension and increased vulnerability to lower back pain. Young athletes need to receive proper training, engage in cross-training activities, maintain a balanced and nutritious diet, prioritize rest and recovery, and consult with healthcare professionals or sports trainers to address any concerns or imbalances that may contribute to lower back pain.

Cutting-edge Techniques for lower back pain in young athletes

It’s essential to consider a multi-faceted approach that addresses the acute symptoms and the underlying causes. Here are a few cutting-edge management techniques that are commonly used:

Injury prevention strategies: Young athletes should engage in injury prevention strategies such as warm-up exercises, cool-down stretches, proper equipment use, and regular maintenance of fitness levels to minimize the risk of lower back pain and other injuries.

PEMF therapy: Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses electromagnetic fields to promote healing and reduce pain. PEMF therapy has been suggested to have analgesic (pain-relieving) effects by modulating pain pathways and reducing inflammation. PEMF therapy has been proposed to promote tissue healing and regeneration by enhancing cellular metabolism and stimulating the production of proteins involved in tissue repair. All this could aid in the recovery process for young athletes with lower back pain.

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Manual therapy: Chiropractic adjustments, osteopathic manipulative treatment, or specific soft tissue mobilization can address musculoskeletal imbalances, reduce pain, and promote healing.

Sports-specific training and load management: Working with coaches and trainers who understand the demands of the sport can help design training programs that gradually increase the athlete’s workload, incorporate proper warm-ups and cooldowns, and prioritize rest and recovery. This approach aims to reduce the risk of overuse injuries and optimize performance.

Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help reduce pain and inflammation. However, all of these may have side effects if used for a more extended period.

Psychological Support: Addressing psychological factors, such as performance anxiety or stress, is crucial. Sports psychologists or counselors can support and help athletes develop coping strategies to manage psychological stressors.

PEMF therapy is a clinical-evidence based technique to relieve lower back pain among athletes

• A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research in 2013 evaluated the effects of PEMF therapy on athletes with acute lower back pain. The study included 32 athletes and found that PEMF therapy significantly reduced pain and improved functional outcomes compared to a control group.

• Another study published in the Journal of Pain Research in 2018 assessed the effects of PEMF therapy on non-specific low back pain. While the study did not specifically focus on athletes, it demonstrated that PEMF therapy significantly reduced pain intensity and improved functional outcomes in individuals with chronic low back pain.

Take Home Message

• Young athletes must practice proper body mechanics, maintain good posture, and avoid overtraining or participating in activities that exacerbate their pain.
• Nutrition, hydration, and adequate sleep are all crucial factors in the overall management of back pain.
• Management should be focused on non-pharmacological techniques like core-strengthening exercises, mobility exercises, injury prevention techniques, PEMF therapy, and psychosocial support.
• If it needs to be managed by the abovementioned techniques, approach your healthcare professional.
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