Common Back Injuries

Back injuries are prevalent and can significantly impact daily life and mobility. These injuries often result from poor lifting mechanics, sudden movements, or prolonged poor posture. Common back injuries include muscle strains, herniated discs, and spinal stenosis. Symptoms may include back pain, stiffness, muscle spasms, and, in severe cases, radiating pain or numbness in the legs. Treatment typically involves rest, anti-inflammatory medications, physiotherapy (available at both Cambridge and Kitchener locations), and, in some cases, surgical interventions to alleviate pressure on nerves or stabilize the spine.

Back Muscle Strain or Sprain

A “pull” or tear of the muscles in your lower back area. Typically caused by lifting heavy objects, sudden movements and other trauma. Symptoms include pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Besides acute injury management, treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, chiropractic and massage therapy.

Herniated Disc (Slipped Disc)

The disc is a rubbery fluid-filled shock absorber between the bones (vertebrae) of the spine. A herniated disc occurs when the disc lining (capsule) tears allowing the thick disc fluid to squeeze out. Typically caused by a lifting or twisting injury, especially if sudden or traumatic. May be associated with “sciatica”. Symptoms included pain (especially bending forward and sitting), stiffness and lack of motion. Besides acute injury management, treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, chiropractic and massage therapy.

Facet Joint Strain

Inflammation or mechanical irritation of the facet joints of the spine which are the small joints that connect one vertebra to the other. Typically caused by overuse or repetitive motions that put the back into an over arched position; can also be caused by trauma that causes hyperextension of your back. Symptoms include pain (particularly when arching or extending your back), stiffness and lack of motion. Besides acute injury management, treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, chiropractic and massage therapy.

female runner holding her back

Mechanical Back Pain

Back pain arising from the soft tissue structures (muscles, tendons and ligaments) that surround the vertebrae of your spine. Multiple anatomic structures and tissues are usually involved. Typically caused by overuse, poor core and postural stabilization, repetitive motions, being overweight and muscle tightness and imbalances. Symptoms include lower back pain and stiffness. Treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, chiropractic and massage therapy.  (Related article in blog posts: Low Back Pain)

Sciatica

Pinching, compression or irritation of the nerve roots in your spine. Typically caused by a herniated disc or osteoarthritic or degenerative bone spurs. Symptoms include sharp electric-like pain that shoots all the way down your leg to your foot, numbness and tingling, and may include weakness. Besides acute injury management, treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, chiropractic and massage therapy.  In severe cases, surgery is sometimes needed.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Wearing down of the integrity of the shock-absorber discs between the vertebrae, leading to degenerative changes such as bone spurs. Typically related to aging and genetics, but also associated with previous back injuries. Symptoms include pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion, especially when trying to bend forward. May also be associated with sciatica, facet joint osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. Treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, chiropractic and massage therapy.

Facet Joint Osteoarthritis

Wearing down or degeneration of cartilage in the facet joints of the spine which are the small joints that connect one vertebra to the other. Typically related to aging and genetics, but also associated with previous back injuries. Symptoms include pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion, especially when arching or extending your back. May also be associated with sciatica, degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis. Treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, chiropractic and massage therapy.

Spinal Stenosis

Narrowing of the spinal canal through which runs your spinal cord, causing increased pressure on the spinal cord and the nerve roots. Typically related to aging, genetics, degenerative disc disease and facet joint osteoarthritis. Symptoms include pain that runs down your legs to your feet which is worsened as you walk but relieved when you stop to rest. May also include numbness, tingling and weakness. Treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, chiropractic and massage therapy. Surgery is sometimes needed in severe cases.

Spondylolysis

Small crack or break in the bones at the back part of the spinal vertebrae near the facet joints. Typically caused by overuse or repetitive motions that involve arching or hyperextension of your spine. Common in activities such as gymnastics, figure skating and dance, and some people are genetically predisposed. Symptoms include pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion (especially when arching or extending your back), which can mimic facet joint syndrome. Treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, and may involve bracing the spine for a prolonged period of time.

lady bend over with back pain

Spondylolisthesis

Occurs when one vertebra slips forward in relation to the one beneath it. Is associated with spondylolysis in young athletes and with degenerative changes in older people. Symptoms include pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Treatment includes physiotherapy, exercises to improve core strength, exercise to improve postural support, and may involve bracing the spine for a prolonged period of time. If severe, especially if the slippage causes sciatica, surgery may be needed.

Specific treatments For back injuries may vary based on the individual’s condition and severity of the injury. Seeking professional medical advice for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan is recommended for the best outcomes.

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Our physicians specialize in sports medicine and are certified with the Canadian Academy of Sport & Exercise Medicine (CASEM). They provide expert medical care for high performance athletes, recreational athletes and active individuals.

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Our physiotherapists focus on sport- and activity-specific rehabilitation. Our goal is to return you to your activity as soon and as safely as possible.

CHIROPRACTIC

Our chiropractors utilize functional assessments to diagnose and determine the appropriate treatment plan and therapeutic methods. These techniques include Active Release Technique (ART), Athletic Movement Assessment (AMA), Diversified chiropractic Manipulation technique.

MASSAGE THERAPY

Our Registered Massage Therapists use preventative and restorative therapies to help you maintain, rehabilitate and improve physical function or relieve your pain.

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Our Certified Athletic Therapists use a full range of treatments to rehabilitate, prevent injury and help you return safely to your sports and other activities.

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Our pedorthists are trained in assessing, casting, design and fitting of foot appliances (orthotics) and in fitting of footwear to reduce painful and debilitating conditions of the lower limbs and feet.

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Our bracing professionals help fit you with a stocked or custom brace so that you may be able to return to sports or recreational activities sooner and safer.

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Our Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist helps to promote good nutrition habits that can help you maintain your energy levels, weight and muscle mass and can lower your risk of certain diseases.

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