Have you ever had back pain after a long night of hockey? Or maybe woken up with a stiff and achy back the morning after? I know I have. It can be frustrating and a real drain on your day. I’v had a few friends who have back pain so severe that they will skip a few games because of the pain. The good thing is back pain often goes away on its own, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Maybe you are someone whose had back pain after a game and you went to bed thinking “I’ll feel better tomorrow”, but then you didn’t. Or maybe, you took a few games off to rest and get better, but things didn’t improve. If you’re one of the unlucky ones whose back pain didn’t go away, you probably are wondering “why me?”
While I can’t answer that question with one simple answer I can tell you that one of the most common mistakes people with back pain make is “resting” their back. Low back pain is best treated quickly, because if you don’t, it can last for a lot longer than it would otherwise. Treatment can take on many different forms, but when people choose “resting” as their treatment, they aren’t really choosing a treatment at all. Resting used to be the first line recommendation for those suffering from back pain, but it is not anymore. This is where a lot of the confusion comes from. The evidence, however, does not fare well for bed rest or rest in general.
Why doesn’t rest work? Our bodies are meant to be active. When you rest, the body adapts. The body gets used to resting and it becomes deconditioned. This is the opposite of we want to happen. After a back injury you need to strengthen the back and the core not weaken it.
Core stabilization is an important component of treating and preventing low back pain. If the core becomes weaker and less stable due to deconditioning, it can take longer to heal.
Studies have shown those who return to activity sooner will recover faster, and those who rest take longer to recover. The key to recovery is to stay mobile and active. You want to stay as active as possible without exacerbating the injury. That’s the difficult part.
This isn’t to say that when you have back pain you should immediately push through it and try to play another hockey game. What you want to do is figure out what you’re able to do without making the pain worse and then continue to do that. Its okay to have some discomfort. In addition start working on keeping the back loose with mobility exercises and strengthening the core with stability exercises.
I help get athletes out of pain and back to enjoying their active lifestyles. I’m a certified chiropractic sports practitioner, certified strength and conditioning specialist, an emergency medical responder and the team chiropractor for The Pittsburgh Vengeance. I also play hockey in my free time at a very mediocre level. -Alex Tauberg DC, CCSP, CSCS