Has wakeboarding given you low back pain? Unfortunately, the nature of falling from the sky onto flat water just isn’t ergonomically correct! Wakeboarding causes repetitive stresses to the tissue of the lower back, the vertebrae, discs, and muscles and ligaments that hold everything together. These tissues can cause pain that is local in nature, achy, and can turn into sharp or debilitating depending on how severe the damage is. What kind of pain are you having?
Muscle pain is typically the most common and is diffuse, or spread out, and is achy in nature. It comes about after lengthy rides, trying new tricks, multiple falls (that aren’t severe), and typically feels worse after inactivity (like sitting) and better once you move around for a little while. Muscle pain can also be severe during the situation of muscle splinting or spasm. Muscle pain responds well to soft tissue treatments like massage, Graston, manual therapy, etc as well as icing techniques (15-20 minutes with small towel or shirt between ice and skin) and electrical stimulation to decrease inflammation or pain.
Vertabrae are the bones of the spine that make up a column to act as the foundation of the midsection as well as protection for the spinal cord. Falls, repetitive stress, and the constant pounding from landings can cause the vertebra to shift and be come whats called subluxated. This is a malposition of the vertebrae which can cause pain and inflammation of the surrounding nerves. It can also cause decreased range of motion and over time, if not corrected, can lead to degeneration of the joint. Getting adjusted by a chiropractor or DO, stretching and yoga, and foam rolling can be useful in addressing pinched nerves and subluxations.
Between each of the above named vertebra are discs. Discs act as cushion for impact between the two bones. Discs can bulge or herniate if impact is great enough and cause significant pain due to the close proximity of the disc to spinal nerves. Pain from these nerves radiate, or originate at the spine but travel down an extremity. Disc pain can be treated through decompression, traction, adjustment, and therapies to reduce inflammation, like ice and electrical stimulation. This can all be done at a chiropractic office or physical therapist. If the disc issue doesn’t respond to conservative care, further evaluation should be done by a neurologist.
Lower back pain is a very treatable condition when it comes to wakeboarding, and the best way to start is with ice and rest. Once the pain is under control, strengthening the lower spine will keep you from injuring it again in the future. More on that, coming next!
*If you have back pain accompanied by a fever, flank pain, abdominal pain, or bowel or bladder problems, consult your general practitioner to rule out the possibility of appendicitis, diverticulitis, kidney issues, or other organ pathology. If in doubt, always consult a physician.