Many people hurt their back at some time in their lives, and when this happens it’s common to worry that it might be something serious, or to be unsure as to the best thing to do.
Here’s a quick guide for people involved in combat sports about what you should do if it happens to you.
The first thing is to ensure that your pain isn’t a sign of something more serious. If you have any of the following symptoms, or you’re concerned that you may have damaged something badly, then put this article down and seek medical advice.
When it’s an emergency:
- If a fighter experiences a trauma to the back (such as a bad fall or impact) followed by pain, numbness or weakness in the legs or is unable to move by himself then avoid moving him or her and call an ambulance. Spinal fractures are extremely rare in combat sports, but because of the serious consequences it’s important to be aware of the possibility and take precautions.
- If you have weakness in your legs which is severe or getting worse, numbness in the groin area or loss of bowel or bladder control then seek immediate medical attention – go straight to your local Emergency Department. This can be a sign of cauda equina syndrome – pressure on the nerves in your lower back that if untreated can potentially cause permanent damage and paralysis. This is also very rare.
See your doctor if:
- you are feeling otherwise unwell, or have a fever. Sometimes back pain can be a symptom of an illness or infection that needs medical treatment.
- you have persistent numbness, tingling or weakness into your legs.
- the pain radiates into the stomach or groin area.
- the pain is severe and doesn’t improve with over the counter pain medication.
Fortunately, most cases of back pain will eventually resolve by themselves. Once serious illnesses and injuries have been ruled out, you can help this process with the following steps.
- Use ice if the injury is recent (less than a week old). For chronic (long term) back injuries, people often prefer to use heat to relieve the pain.
- Stay active. Being mobile will help to avoid stiffness and promote recovery. Be guided by the pain – a little discomfort is to be expected, but avoid activities that are likely to cause sudden sharp pain, especially anything involving heavy loads or forward bending.
- Take pain medication as needed. Many people avoid taking pills, but in many cases they can help your recovery by allowing you to stay mobile. Contrary to popular belief, most painkillers won’t mask the pain so much that you might do more damage without feeling it. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for advice about the best choice of painkillers for you.
- Take care with stretching. Sometimes it feels relieving in the short term to stretch the back out, but with certain kinds of back pain it may make the underlying problem worse.
- You may wish to see a qualified professional such as an osteopath or physiotherapist about your back pain. They will be able to assess your problem and give you advice about the best type of exercise to do. Hands on treatment may also be helpful in reducing your recovery time.