Back and Shoulder Injury : Athletic Injuries

The intensity of athletic activity and how the body is twisted or stretched can cause back and shoulders injuries. The shoulders and rib cage support the back, which extends along the spine between the neck and buttocks. The supporting shoulder joint is made up of three bones (collarbone, shoulder blade and upper arm), two cartilages, muscles, ligaments and tendons.

In reinforcing the back, the shoulder joint acts as a fulcrum for far-reaching movements, such as pushing, pulling, and lifting. Interacting with the nerves and trapezius muscles in the back, movement between the neck, shoulders, and spine vertebrae is facilitated. Vigorous movement in athletics can impact any of these parts when force is applied.

Symptoms of Back and Shoulder Injury

Muscle strain or sprain is the most common form of back or shoulder pain that causes soreness and stiffness in the back or shoulder, but can heal with rest. Pulled muscles and tendons cause inflammation, pain, and often bruising where the muscle or tendon is pulled. If the tendon or ligament is torn, a snapping sensation with burning pain may be felt with muscle spasms making it difficult to move either the arm (if affecting the shoulder) or the back and legs (if in the back).

Sometimes athletes experience more serious injuries when one of the vertebrae discs "slips" or tears causing pain, inflammation, bruising and a swell in the tear location. Fractures or dislocations of the lower back vertebrae called Spondylolisthesis are also common in athletic sports where the back becomes stiff and tightens the hamstrings, causing shooting pains through the buttocks, down the thighs.

Causes of Back and Shoulder Injury

When athletes either overstride or change direction at accelerated pace, pulling or tearing muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the shoulder and back with excessive force, injury occurs. Other causes are not warming up properly before athletic activity, not following recommended exercise patterns, or not drinking enough fluid causing muscle stiffness. A diet not conducive to athletic activity may also weaken muscles causing damage. Bone fractures and breaks in the lower back or shoulders happen when runners fall on uneven terrain or if body weight is shifted disproportionately during actions. An initial slipped disc can deteriorate into a full bone break.

Medical Treatment of Back and Shoulder Injury

If injury occurs on track, athletes should stop the activity to protect the affected shoulder or back, rest, apply ice, compress the region with a sling or bandage, or make use of a stretcher in the case of back injury. Painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications can be used. A doctor should examine the afflicted shoulder or back, discuss medical history and identify how the injury occurred. The physician may refer the athlete for an X-ray or MRI scan to see the amount of damage for corrective treatment. Often physiotherapy is used as an option to rehabilitate the injured shoulder or back, and to teach the athlete how to reduce risk of injury and strengthen muscles during exercise. Only in severe cases of ligament and tendon detachment without healing, and bone breaks, is surgery recommended.

Preventing Back and Shoulder Injury

Injuries to the back and shoulders can be prevented if athletes follow an exercise pattern to strengthen the muscles and to apply healthy athletic movement technique, designed specifically by a physiotherapist or sports professional. Adequate warming-up exercises before athletics and wearing supportive or protective sports clothing can help. Other preventions include a muscle and bone building diet, drinking plenty of fluids, not exercising when fatigued or ill, and resting during and between periods of athletic activity.

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved