You get together with friends on the pickleball court or you enjoy adventures in the mountains on foot, on skis, or on a bike. Whatever your activity, moving is important to you, and the last thing you want is to be sidelined by injury.
This is especially true when it comes to spine injuries, which can be serious and affect your long-term ability to be active.
While we can’t always protect ourselves against injury when we engage in sports, we can reduce our risks. To that end, the team of sports medicine specialists here at Western Orthopaedics is reviewing a few tips that can protect your spine from injury.
Spine issues and sports
It’s hard to isolate an activity that doesn’t rely on your spine, but there are some sports that are proven to lead to more back and neck issues, including:
- Tennis and pickleball
- Lifting weights
- Skiing and snowboarding
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to focus on avoiding aches, pains, and muscle spasms along your spine and not more serious spinal injuries.
Strength is paramount
The 33 vertebrae that make up your spine hardly work alone. Your back and neck contain very powerful muscle groups that support your spine, and it’s imperative that you keep these muscles strong.
To support and protect your lower back, you should concentrate on core muscles, which includes your abs, obliques, and lower back muscles. Planks are a fantastic way to fire up your core muscles. Performing front and side planks for just a few minutes several times a week will go a long way toward targeting all of your core muscles.
Of course, there are plenty of other back-strengthening exercises, such as bird dogs, crunches, and bicycles. For a great tutorial on core exercises, click here.
When it comes to strengthening your neck, we recommend these exercises.
By increasing the muscle support around your spine, you can better support the structure and protect it against injury.
Flexibility also counts
As much as strengthening helps, it’s also important to spend a little time working on flexibility in your spine. Twisting exercises and spine-lengthening stretches are really helpful. You can start with a few simple toe touches, but start with your hands high overhead to get the full range on this one.
For twisting, there are some great yoga poses, but it can be as simple as standing in a doorway and using your hands to gently pull your upper body around in each direction. This is a great one for getting your neck involved, as you should try to look over your shoulder in each direction.
For more in-depth stretching and strengthening exercises, it’s worth visiting our physical therapy center where our experts can target a regimen to meet your specific needs.
Know the signs
As much as being prepared can help in avoiding spine issues related to sports, you also need to listen to your body. If your back or neck is feeling tight, take some time to warm up before you hit the court, trail, or slope.
If your back or neck starts to become painful, call it a day and don’t push too hard. The pain is a signal that these areas are stressed, making them ripe for injury.
If you have more questions about preventing sports-related spine injuries, we invite you to contact one of our offices in Arvada or Denver, Colorado, to schedule an appointment with a sports medicine specialist.