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Tips for weekend warriors: preventing back and neck injuries

As an athlete, you know all too well that taking care of yourself is the #1 most important factor of success. No weekend warrior can win without putting his or her health first. Why let a preventable neck or back injury keep you from scaling every Kilimanjaro and all the amazing scenic trails to run?

Back and neck injuries, along with severe neck and back pain, are some of the most common issues that athletes and fitness enthusiasts face.

Common back and neck injuries

Muscle strains and ligament sprains are some of the most common injuries that can be caused by heavy training, improper techniques, insufficient stretching, and trauma.

Cracks and stress fractures in the vertebrae are often experienced by athletes who practice sports that require intense twisting or hyperextension of the spine, like gymnastics.

Stingers are injuries to the nerves around the neck and shoulder most often occurring with contact and collision sports like football. (North American Spine Society)

Reduce the risk of neck and back pain

Injuries can put you out of commission for a while, meaning you’ll be stuck at home instead of out and about basking in the sun, so here are a few tips from us to help you prevent them.

1. Warm-up – Loosen your joints and get your blood flowing to the muscles. A warm-up session before you start your workout will help prevent injuries by improving flexibility. Since most of us are tied to sedentary 9-5 desk jobs, you’ll need to warm up your spine by moving it in ways that it’s not used to before you start exercising. It only takes a few minutes to get your spine ready for a great workout.

2. Strengthen the core – If your abdominal muscles are weak, it means that your back muscles are working extra hard to support the spine, and the extra burden can cause back pain. A stronger core will reduce the strain on back muscles and reduce the risk of back pain.

3. Make sleep a priority – Your spine needs to rest just like the rest of your body. Make sure you are getting a good eight hours of sleep every night so that you can give your neck and back some much-needed time off.

4. Choose the sport that fits you best – If you have a past or ongoing issue with neck pain or back pain, you may want to consult your doctor on the best sport to play. Some sports that require intense twists or jumping (think about making a slam dunk) may not be the most ideal. Other alternatives like swimming or skiing could actually be fun and exciting, yet safe to practice.

If you are having problems with a neck injury or back injury, the physicians at Baldwin Bone and Joint can help. We are experts on sports medicine with extensive education in the musculoskeletal system, trusted by several athletic teams in the state, including the University of South Alabama Jaguars.