Lower back injury while cycling

author : AMSSM
comments : 2

What is the recommended way to recover from a cycling-related lower back injury?

BT member question from moore846

"I have had a lower back injury since Monday of last week. I sustained this injury whilst on an easy ride in the small chain ring at the end of the session.  It caused my back to go into spasm a short time later.  Since then, I have had four sessions with a Chiropractor, and my back is improving.  How long do you recommend I wait before I start cycle and road work? At present I am able to swim.  I was using BeginnerTriathlete’s Beginner 1/2 Ironman program Week 14, which was proving to be most effective."

Answer by Rachel A. Coel, MD, PhD
Member AMSSM

Back pain is characterized by pain and stiffness in the back. Low back pain is the most common type of back pain seen in athletes. The pain may be located in the center of the back over the spine bones, to the side of the spine, or both. The pain may travel down the leg and/or include buttock pain. It can feel like stiffness, and it may cause limited motion and muscle spasms. Lower back pain is also known as lumbago, lumbar back pain, or mechanical back pain.

Back pain causes

There are many possible causes of back pain. Pulled or strained muscles are one of the most common causes of back pain. Other causes of back pain can include sprained ligaments, stiff joints, or small tears in the discs (herniated discs). Scoliosis, a condition where the spine is curved, can also cause back pain.

Given your description, it sounds like your lower back injury involves pulled or strained back muscles that have resulted in muscle spasm.  Most healthy athletes experiencing back pain will recover quickly, usually within two to six weeks. The most common forms of treatment include a brief period of rest, abdominal and back (core) exercises/stretches, physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractics, icing after activity, over-the-counter pain medications, and regular exercise. In most cases of back pain, it is not recommended to stop all activities; the pain will generally subside faster if the patient stays active.

Treating back pain

In your case of lower back muscle spasm, I would recommend a period of two weeks of rest and modified, pain-free athletic activity.  I typically recommend a gradual progression back to full activity over an additional one- to two-week period of time.  Complete competitive training can resume when you have achieved full, pain-free range of motion of your back, full strength, and full sport-specific agility. In total, this entire process may take four to six weeks to successfully complete.

 

Rachel A. Coel, MD, PhD
Co-Director, Sports Medicine Program
Children’s Hospital Colorado and The University of Colorado
13123 E. 16th Ave., B060, Aurora, CO 80045
(720) 777-4871
Rachel.Coel@childrenscolorado.org

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date: December 14, 2011

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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