Low Back Pain in Sporting Adolescents

Throughout adolescence various growth and hormone changes occurs which places unwanted stress on a not fully developed body. Surprisingly up to 70% of adolescents will report experiencing Low Back Pain (LBP) at some point, which is concerning due to the link to developing chronic low back pain throughout adulthood. However on a positive note through early intervention with a physiotherapist or other relevant health professionals, over 80% of acute LBP episodes lasting less than 3 months can be resolved within 6 weeks.

Low Back Pain in adolescents is commonly associated with the surrounding musculature, bone or disc related structures and can be largely attributed to overuse or repetitive strain. However postural and structural alignment of the spine can frequently act in conjunction with this which makes the spine more susceptible to injury especially when performing high impact sports. Sports such as gymnastics or cricket bowling that involving bending, hyperextending and twisting have a higher prevalence of lower back injuries. While other activities that regularly result in adolescent LBP include carrying a heavy schoolbag, overtraining at the gym, or contact sports.

Correcting posture and developing a safe and tailored exercise program will greatly reduce the overload stress placed on the spine. Improving muscle imbalances and strengthening the muscles that stabilise the spine will aid in prevention of further episodes of low back pain when progressing into adulthood. Through the team of Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists at Functional Health we tailor specific programs aimed to rectify any identified deficits with a particular goal to improve your day to day function. As your strength and function progressively improves we are able to introduce our specialty rehab MedX machines. MedX is specifically designed system promoting safety which enables us to treat all ages and conditions as our team of professionals specialise in incorporating MedX into a rehabilitation program.

Some common condition that result in LBP in adolescents include

Stress Fractures / Spondylolysis – which are stress signatures or hair line fractures of the vertebrae due to high or repetitive loading. The not fully developed vertebrae of adolescences are unable to accommodate for the additional load especially when combined with high velocity and impactful movements. The fracture develops in the pars interarticularis which is a thin connection between 2 segments of bone. This fracture reduces the posterior structural support of the spine which enhances the loading through the disc and anterior structures which may result in secondary complications.

Appropriate management is vital to making a successful recovery which initially involves periods of rest to allow the bone to repair and regenerate. Then gradually commencing gentle stretching to maintain mobility and progressively introducing a range of graded exercises to help stabilise, protect and strengthening the surrounding structures. At Functional Health we work together to develop a return to sport regime that ensures safety and provides the adequate strengthening, support and flexibility required to safely return to the desired activity. It is vital to ensure that the strength of the adjacent musculature is gradually built up to reduce the risk of injury reoccurrence. MedX rehabilitation equipment is designed to ensure functional strength is regained in a safe and controlled environment in order for the spinal muscles to provide support and stability and reduce the load on each vertebrae. MedX with its patented system immobilises the accessory and synergist muscles therefore is able to specifically target the deconditioned / injured muscles that we intend to strengthen.

Scoliosis – is defined as abnormal curvatures or alignment of the spine. We all have natural and completely normal curvatures in our spine however some structural abnormalities may develop through adolescence or be present from birth. This abnormal curve may not have caused complications until adolescence commences when various changes and growth occurs. When combining this with sporting activities this will increase the susceptibility of adolescent to LBP. The curvature can result in secondary change in muscle length or tone and these changes have implications for the biomechanics of the spine and may manifest into recurrent LBP. The alter mechanics and muscle imbalances can also have a postural positioning contribution.

Through a thorough assessment we at Functional Health will specifically target postural correction and introduce strength exercise to alleviate and neutralise the addition stress and imbalances on the surround muscle and ligamentous tissue. Functional Health have a focus and duty to education patients and aim to prevent further complication such as Disc Bulges / Herniation down the road. The discs help to disperse/absorb the load gravity places on the vertebrae however if these become overstress due to instability and weakness of the supportive muscles then can become injured themselves. This is why at Functional Health we provide a full rehabilitation service and strive to return all patients to pre injury function. This is done through a range of services such as incorporating a combination of hands on treatment, tailored home exercise programs and in clinical MedX spinal strength programs. Following treatment at Functional Health patients leave with the relevant information and support to continue their preventative program strategies to limit reoccurrence and contact streams if reinjures should happen.