Athletes or individuals with physically active lifestyles are prone to spine injuries or disorders due to various factors related to their intense physical activities and the demands placed on their bodies. However, as an athlete, you should not just play through the pain.
Some of the reasons for the development of spine problems include repetitive movements, high-impact activities, poor technique, overexertion, and fatigue, which are associated with exercise or playing sports and can put increased pressure on the spine. The spine is made up of the spinal cord, nerves, vertebrae, and vertebral discs – very delicate structures that can become irritated, inflamed, or damaged.
When it comes to treating problems of the spine, interventional spine specialists can provide comprehensive care, assist in recovery, and get people back to their game.
Common Spine Complaints in Athletes
Some of the most common spine problems that can affect active individuals are:
- Herniated Discs – Also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, this occurs when the cushioning discs between the vertebrae become damaged and the inner material leaks out, often pressing on spinal nerves and causing pain. Forward flexion, which is the bending forward of the spine, and twisting motions can lead to disc herniation.
- Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis – Spondylolysis is a stress fracture in the vertebra, while spondylolisthesis is the forward slippage of one vertebra over another. Repetitive hyperextension of the spine, common in activities like gymnastics and weightlifting, can contribute to these conditions.
- Spinal Stenosis – A narrowing of the spinal canal often caused by the degeneration of the discs, which can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Athletes engaging in high-impact sports might develop spinal stenosis over time, as a result of lumbar degeneration.
- Sciatica – Athletes, especially those involved in sports requiring repetitive bending and twisting, often deal with sciatica, which is characterized by pain radiating along the sciatic nerve in the lower back, buttocks, and legs due to nerve compression or irritation.
- Facet Joint Syndrome – Facet joints stabilize the spine, and excessive twisting or rotations of the spine, which are common in some sports, can cause the breakdown of the cartilage over the joint, putting pressure on the nerves that exit the spine.
- Muscle Strains and Sprains – While not conditions affecting the bones directly, strains and sprains in muscles and ligaments – particularly in the lumbar region – are common in athletes, especially in sports involving sudden movements, twisting, or lifting.
- Fractures – High-impact sports can lead to an increase in susceptibility to vertebral fractures, particularly in contact sports like football, rugby, or combat sports. If the external force is greater than what the bones can take, it can result in a fracture.
Why Apply Interventional Spine Treatments
Interventional spine and sports medicine is a rapidly growing field that offers hope to patients struggling with chronic pain, injuries, or performance limitations. One of the main benefits of interventional spine treatments is the minimally invasive approach to treating the issue.
A commonly used interventional spine procedure is corticosteroid injections. With the use of imaging technologies like fluoroscopy, targeted injections containing numbing agents and anti-inflammatory corticosteroids can be administered to specific areas in the spine, with great precision. Some examples are epidural injections, which is medication delivered into the epidural space of the spine. This treatment is used for relief in patients with chronic neck and back pain, spinal stenosis, and lumbar radiculopathy. By accurately delivering long-lasting corticosteroids to the precise location, patients can enjoy months of alleviated pain.
Another possible treatment is radiofrequency neurotomy, which are also delivered under X-ray guidance, and uses heat to damage the nerve where the pain signals originate for lasting relief. This method can provide pain relief from facet joint syndrome for up to a year.
These treatments offer:
- Long-lasting relief from pain
- Little or no downtime
- A lower risk of complications
- Less reliance on oral pain medication
Invasive surgical procedures involve significant downtime and carry a higher risk of complications. By contrast, minimally invasive procedures are generally performed on an outpatient basis and involve minimal downtime, which is an advantage for athletes. This means they can resume their daily activities and return to exercise much faster than they would after traditional surgery.
Interventional spine procedures are individualized, and patients can stand to greatly benefit from the highly targeted approach of an interventional spine specialist. It may be the key to unlocking lasting pain relief and achieving your performance goals.
Interventional Spine Surgeon in Hartford County, CT & Springfield, MA
We use this to treat pain and are highly committed to providing quick relief. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary, and Dr. Kruger is highly qualified to perform minimally invasive spine surgery. We also have a highly trained sports medicine team to bring you the most comprehensive care.
To schedule an appointment with top spine surgeon Dr. David Kruger, call us today at (860) 728-6740 or use our online request form.