Common Causes of Back Pain for Skaters

Know When You Should Seek Medical Attention

Fallen ice skater on ice

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Complaints of back pain are common among inline, ice and roller skaters, and it is important to understand what may be causing your discomfort and what you can do to fix it. If you participate in aggressive, freestyle or figure skating activities – or any of the extreme skating styles – you probably do many maneuvers like jumps and spins that overuse your back muscles and your spine. Your back is also vulnerable to injury when you skate because it is often the target area for impact from falls and landing attempts in any of the roller sports disciplines. And your back is also affected by the ongoing stress of maintaining balance while you skate.

Skating Injuries and Medical Issues That Cause Back Pain

These back pains – often called a backache or lumbago – sometimes happen suddenly from a fall, a sudden twist or other failed skating move. Or your back can slowly become more and more uncomfortable until an actual ache develops. Almost every skater who is active in roller sports for an extended period of time will experience lower back pain at some point in their skating career. Take a look at how many skating activity-related injuries and medical issues could cause back pain for a skater:

Muscle Strains

One common cause of lower back pain for inline and roller skaters is lower back muscle strains. Muscle strain, a slight or partial tear in muscle tissue, can occur from a constant dose of overuse, sudden overexertion or even trauma. Like all of the muscles in the body, sudden movements can injure your back muscles. Poor posture and overuse can also cause muscle strain injuries, causing spasms and pain when the affected muscles are in use.

Stress Fractures to the Spine

The most common bone injuries sustained in skating sports include stress fractures to the spine. Pain may occur with these fractures, but it does not always result in a serious medical problem. Isolated fractures or defects are called spondylolysis. Your medical specialist can usually diagnose them with X-rays and treat them non-surgically.

Vertebra Dislocation

Aggressive skaters transmit impact from harsh foot or butt landings through the spine. Spondylolisthesis, also known as slipped vertebrae results in back pain from the dislocation that can occur when a skater continues to skate with a spondylolysis bone fracture.

Herniated Disc

Many roller sports athletes who experience back pain, leg pain, or weak muscles in the lower extremities are diagnosed with a herniated or ruptured disc.

Lumbar Disc Pain

Sometimes the cause of back pain is thought to be due to degeneration, or wearing out, of the lumbar intervertebral discs. This condition is called discogenic back pain or lumbar disc pain.

Other Medical Conditions

In addition to injuries and overuse, there are many medical conditions and diseases that can create back pain. These include lumbar spine arthritis, kidney stones, osteoporosis, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, infections, and even tumors. Emotional stress can also affect the intensity and duration of back pain.

When Should You See a Medical Specialist?

In many cases, simple back pain only lasts a few days and is gone in a few weeks. But regardless of the level of discomfort, be sure to contact your primary care physician or sports medicine specialist to find out if a formal diagnosis or treatment is needed. Be sure to seek attention if any of these signs are present:

  • Back pain is affecting your skating or training activities
  • The back pain lasts more than a few days
  • Regular sleep patterns are disrupted by back pain
  • There are problems controlling your bladder or bowels
  • The back pain is accompanied by weak, numb or painful legs
  • Any signs of infection like chills, fever, chills or sweating

If you take good care of your back, you may not need to fix it. This is a simple solution, but one that is well worth investigating, if you are a new, returning or current skater who is concerned about preventing back pain and avoiding other skating injuries.

Skating injuries are always lurking on the horizon. Some may be overuse injuries and others may be acute or traumatic. Make a point to educate yourself about the things you can do to prevent and identify injury as well when to get professional medical evaluation and treatment.

Please note this document has not been medically reviewed, and the information may not be medically accurate.