Returning to physical activity after a back injury can be a daunting experience.
As a surgeon, an athlete, and a human being with an overall understanding of how the body works, I can tell you that back injuries are not something you want to mess around with. We use our back for everything, from lifting our kids, to bending down to pick things up.
Of course, we never realize how much we rely on it until we injure it, and become completely incapable of doing anything. Back injuries are no joke, and the recovery time that always follows is no joke either. It’s understandable if you are a little gun-shy about returning to physical activity, especially athletic activity, after an injury. So, if you are thinking about getting back into it, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
Is it worth it to return to sports? I am all for athletics, but there are plenty of ways to get a little exercise. If your injury is likely to re-occur from playing sports, you should gauge how much the sport really means to you.
Are there alternatives to your sport? If there are plenty of options that are easier on your back, you may consider changing it up and trying something less strenuous.
Are you realistic about your injury? Sometimes back injuries are lifestyle changing, so you should make sure you have all the information from your doctor about whether returning to sports is actually a good idea for you.
Some general rules about returning to sports after a back injury, are that you should only do it when you have little or no pain, a good range of motion, rebuilt strength in any relevant muscles, and rebuilt endurance, which will most likely only come from some time at the gym.
Strains or sprains might not have serious effects so you can probably return to your sport after a few days or weeks if you don’t experience worsening symptoms.
A slipped disk, or surgery-requiring injury will normally put you out for 1-6 months, and require rehabilitation exercise. The most important part of that process is making sure you are using the equipment correctly, so here is a guide to the proper use of gym equipment, if you want to study up.
No matter what you choose to do, I cannot stress enough that you should listen to your doctor. When it comes to your back, don’t take any chances. And if you have to give up a beloved sport in order to save your back, find an alternative.
Chances are, your love of one sport in particular can evolve into something else entirely if you are willing to try something new.
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