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Ask the Docs | Low Back Sprain

Ask the Docs
Posted November 20, 2007

  • AthletiCo Bulls' Injury Report

    Patient Question:
    I play basketball about three times a week and I have been experiencing pain in my lower back. The pain started last week and back spasms have kept me from my normal activities. It feels better when I rest. How long should I lay off playing?

    Dr. Frank Phillips:
    It sounds like you may be experiencing pain from a lower back sprain. This is the most common injury among Americans and is second only to the common cold in keeping people home from work (and off the court, too). A low back sprain or lumbar sprain occurs when the ligaments or muscles that help stabilize the lower back are stretched and become inflamed.

    Common symptoms of a lumbar sprain include pain in the lower back that subsides when you rest, pain that extends from the lower back into your buttocks, and low back muscle spasms. Pain radiating all the way down the leg or “sciatica” may suggest a more serious problem. Some of the common contributing factors for lower back sprains include traumatic movements (a car accident, for example), being overweight or a smoker, and of course contorting the back in unnatural positions. Sometimes, unfortunately, basketball does not produce “natural” back movements, especially when your supporting muscles are weak or tight.

    Dr. Phillips
    Dr. Phillips
    Treatment Options:
    The good news is with proper treatment you should be back on the court in no time from a lumbar sprain. Treatment starts with a short period of rest. If you believe that you have sprained your back, cease extensive exercise and physical activity until the acute pain subsides. Typically bed-rest is not required.

    To help aid your recovery, your licensed orthopaedic physician will probably encourage you to take an anti-inflammatory medication for pain and inflammation and possibly a muscle relaxer to reduce spasms. Your physician may also prescribe specific physical therapy and at-home exercises to regain the mobility and strength of your lower back. The exercise program may be tailored to your basketball requirements.

    For more information about Dr. Phillips and the Sports Medicine physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, call 877.MD BONES or visit them online at www.rushortho.com.

    The information contained on this page is intended only for general public education, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for direct medical advice. This information should not replace necessary medical consultations with a qualified orthopaedic physician.



    Ask the Docs | More Patient Questions

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    Hamstring Pull
    A few weeks ago I injured my right leg playing basketball. Since then I have been experiencing pain in my hamstring. I'm trying to rest it, and I can ride a bike and walk, but I cannot run or play basketball. I've been doing some strengthening and stretching exercises but it still really hurts to sit or stand up after sitting for a prolonged period of time. Do you have any advice that could help along the healing process? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Partial ACL Tears
    What is your opinion regarding treatment of partial tears of the ACL? I was diagnosed 6 weeks ago with a 30% tear of the ACL, but no one seems willing to reconstruct it. I am a professional dancer and I need my knee to be 100%–without a brace. I have heard that a partial ACL tear will continue to tear under strenuous activity. Is this true? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Bicep Tendon Tear
    I am 52 years young and consider myself in good health. Lately, however, I have been experiencing a pain in the deep inner fold where my forearm and bicep meet. It really hurts whenever I do curls or other activities that put additional strain on the area. I would imagine that the pain is possibly associated with a tendon tear. What are your thoughts and what besides not exercising could help ease the pain? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Tibial Plateau Fracture
    Over the past few months I have been experiencing pain below my left knee while running. After a collision in my basketball game last week, I heard a “pop” and experienced a shooting pain through my knee and down my shin. My knee is now extremely swollen. My family doctor ruled out major ligament damage and has sent me to get X-rays and a MRI. What could this be? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Jammed Finger
    While playing basketball this week I jammed my finger trying to catch a hot pass. The finger is now tender, swollen, and painful when I bend it. Could this be serious? Should I have X-rays? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Hip Pointer
    While playing basketball this weekend I collided with another team member and injured my hip. Now my hip is tender and painful when I walk. Could this be serious? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Groin Strains
    I have been experiencing pain in my inner thigh. There is also some bruising, swelling, and discomfort when I play basketball and push off my right leg. How long do you think I’ll need to rest before it heals? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Ankle Sprains
    While playing basketball last week I came down wrong on my foot and I think I rolled my ankle. How can I tell if the injury is serious, and when can I return to normal physical activity? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Hip Bursitis
    While playing basketball last month I fell and landed on my hip. It didn’t seem to hurt much then, but as time has passed I have had an increasing pain at the point of my hip. Is this something that will go away on its own? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Plantar Fascia: A Common Basketball Foot Injury
    My heel bothers when I play basketball, and it really hurts when I wake up in the morning and stand up after rest. Is this some type of bruise, or is it a more serious injury? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Wrist Contusion
    While playing basketball this weekend I collided with another team member and injured my wrist on another player’s knee. My wrist is now swollen, black and blue, and tender to the touch. Could this be serious? Should I have X-rays? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Mallet Finger
    While playing basketball last week I jammed my finger on the ball. My finger is still painful and swollen, but only at the fingertip. I also have trouble straightening the tip of my finger. Do you think anything is broken? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

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    Basketball Injuries in the Female Athlete:
    I’ve heard that female basketball players are more frequently injured than their male counterparts. Is there any truth in that? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Aging and Basketball Injuries:
    I’m a 40-something who still enjoys playing competitive basketball. In my advancing years, should I be worried about any increased health risks from playing this demanding sport? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Stretching Before Basketball:
    I recently pulled my hamstring during a game even though I stretched thoroughly before playing. Some of my teammates rarely stretch and they don’t seem to get hurt. Does stretching really do any good? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Torn or Damaged Cartilage:
    After I play basketball, my left knee swells considerably. With ice and rest it mostly goes away, but the swelling comes right back when I play again. What causes this? Is there anything I can do about it? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    ACL Tears:
    While playing basketball last week, I felt a “pop” in my knee when planting my foot. I now have a considerable swelling and the knee feels unstable. Do I have ligament damage? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Jumper’s Knee:
    When I take a jump shot, drive to the basket, or jump to grab a rebound, I often feel a sharp pain behind my kneecap. What causes this? How can it be treated? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.