Stress Fracture Of The Back : Tennis Injuries

The lower back consists of a vertebrae bone called upper and lower pars interarticularis that act as a link or bridge in vertebral processes of the spine facet joint. When playing sports such as tennis that involve repetitive movement and rotation of the spine, a fracture can occur in this pars bone that also causes forward slipping of the lumber vertebrae either bilaterally or unilaterally, resulting in what is called a stress fracture of the spine or Spondylolysis. Athletes involved in tennis also have a higher rate of stress fractures to the lower back.

Symptoms of Back Stress Fracture

A stress fracture of the back can be identified by experiencing pain in one side of the lower back, especially when bending backwards or standing on the leg of the painful side, or feeling tenderness when touching the fracture site of the back. So if you use the tennis racquet with your right hand, you may experience a stress fracture to the lower left side of your back. A curve in the lower back lumbar region caused by the fracture may be noticeable in more severe cases. These symptoms of injury are categorized as progressive or terminal depending on the intensity of the trauma and when the injury occurred.

Causes of Back Stress Fracture

Extensive physical activity such as tennis causes repetitive shifting of weight on the pars vertebral bridge resulting in strain and stress fracture injury to the pars interarticularis vertebrae over time. This stress fracture of the back, when severe, can deteriorate after initial back injury and pain into Spondylolisthesis, as one vertebra shifts forward to adjacent vertebra causing further fracture. Increased age and also participating in competitive sport activities like tennis in excess of fifteen hours a week can increase likelihood of experiencing a back stress fracture. General trauma from back injury can also cause such fractures of the lower back.

Medical Treatment of Back Stress Fracture

If you are a tennis player and are experiencing pain in your lower back, you should consult your doctor to discuss your symptoms and for an examination of your spine. Your doctor may recommend an X-ray or a single photon emission computed tomography scan (SPECT) to identify the extent of damage to the pars interarticularis vertebrae. Early diagnosis and treatment is vital for initial bone re-union and healing. There may also be multiple fractures that you are unaware of. The main treatments are wearing a back brace for three to six months to support the lower lumbar area, limiting the activity that caused the injury, and doing physical therapy exercises. Other treatments for severe injury to the lower spine are electrical stimulation of the injured bone area and surgery involving lumbar fusion.

Preventing Back Stress Fracture

The first recommendation your doctor will suggest is to rest and not resume tennis activity until diagnosis and treatment indicate that it is safe to do so. Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist to help you strengthen muscles in your lower back and abdomen. Other therapies may include learning new techniques for moving and rotating your back when playing tennis. Any return to tennis after injury should be gradual, rotating and stretching your back only when pain-free, and following medical advice provided to prevent further injury or the need for surgery.

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