October 16th was international World Spine Day (WSD). On this day every year those within the health care community work to raise awareness about spinal health and spine disorders. The theme for the 2015 WSD was Your Back at Work. This theme focused on the prevention, education and management of spine disorders in the workplace.

The Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors (ACAC) is celebrating WSD all through the month of October. We’ve decided, why stop at protecting your back at work? We’re discussing protecting your back in all aspects of life: work, home and play. This installment is the last in our three-part series.

Protecting Your Back at Play

With statistics pointing to back injuries as a problem at home and at work, one can imagine back injuries being an issue for those of us who like to stay active. Back injuries that happen as a result of living a healthy, active lifestyle, aren’t just reserved for professional athletes. The weekend warrior athlete is just as susceptible as the multi-million dollar pro. Your social game of soft-ball or your ski-trip to Banff could be causing your back pain.

What type of activities put my back at risk?

Any activity that puts your spine under stress has the ability to cause an injury. This means activities where you twist,  turn, experience an impact or absorb a lot of pressure. Obviously, contact sports like hockey or football can cause damage to your back, but it’s important to remember that seemingly harmless activities such as biking or jogging can also cause just as much harm.

How do I prevent back-pain from happening while I’m active?

  • Strengthen your core – Strengthening your core is key in reducing the damage caused by the repetitive motions. Try doing some crunches, yoga or Pilates exercises to strengthen the muscles that protect your spine.
  • Go for a swim – Swimming helps condition your core and the muscles that support your back. It’s also a great way to get some low impact cardio exercise in. Try supplementing swimming a few laps in the local pool instead of going on your daily run a couple of times a week.
  • Stretch it out – Although it may seem like a no-brainer to stretch before taking part in your favourite athletic activity, some still don’t do it. And what most people continue to forget is that stretching post-exercise is even more important. Stretching, not only your back, but your whole body, lets it know the muscles are about to be used and at the end helps your system cool down appropriately.

What do I do if I injured my back playing sports or being active?

If you suspect you’ve hurt your back as a result of sports or just being active, the first step is to give your back a break. Back strains may simply need a short period of limited activity. When you begin to feel a little better, you should be able to resume your sport or activity gradually, of course applying concepts of proper conditioning, and warm ups and cool downs.

If you find that a couple of days of limiting your activity does not substantially improve your condition, seeing a chiropractor can help rule out serious injuries and conditions, and get you back into the game sooner.