Perth gymnasts often come to us complaining of low back pain. Most can’t pinpoint when it began, or a precipitating event. Some can’t even tell us how long they have been experiencing the pain. However, almost all of them continue practicing despite the pain they are experiencing. Many of those gymnasts don’t realize that low back pain is preventable and, when it is experienced, can be easily managed with the help of a physiotherapist. However, every gymnast we see walks out of our clinics learning that they should never put up with aches, pains and tight spots- they can prevent them before they occur with the help of physiotherapy or, if they do occur, manage them before they get out of control.
Low back pain in gymnasts is commonly caused by:
- Stress Fractures: an overuse injury wherein the spine is overloaded by constant and consistent stress due to long-term, physically challenging training. Generally pain occurs during high impact activities, as well as activities that call for arching or bending forward or backward. Generally stress fractures start out as a minor pain and progressively grow more painful. Rehabilitation is integral to prevent vertebral slippage.
- Joint Irritation: there are two facet joints between each spinal vertebra; essentially, they keep the vertebrae from rubbing against each other. Joints become irritated and inflamed when they are overused, arched with improper core control or overextended. Rehabilitation is important to decrease the chances of the bone wearing on the joint, which causes further pain or even a steady decrease in joint mass. To fight low back pain in gymnasts, we recommend and prescribe core stability pretty consistently. Core stability is vital to control movement, especially during more advanced combinations. The less the core is stabilized, the more likely it is that you will experience low back pain.
At the physiotherapy practice, you will go through many exercises and techniques to keep your core engaged throughout your gymnastics routine, but use these in the meantime to improve your gymnastics performance and prevent injury:
- Navasana (Boat Pose): Start in a seated position on the floor. Bring your feet to the floor, about six inches from your buttocks, with your knees touching. Sit up absolutely straight, engaging your core by sucking in your navel to your spine. Lift your arms off the floor and bring them in front of you, parallel to the ground, as if they are a direct extension from your shoulder. Lift both feet off the ground, keeping knees bent and back straight. For an extra challenge, straighten legs. Breathe.
- Side Balance Crunch: Start kneeling on the floor. Place your right hand on the ground and your left hand on your hip, so you will be slightly tilted. Straighten your legs to the side so you are balancing on your right hand, your body should be parallel to the floor and the only part of your body touching the ground will be the right outside of your foot and your right hand. Lift your left leg as high as it will go without losing your balance and hold for 5-10 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
- Burpies: Start in a plank position, wrists stacked below shoulders and knees below hips. For an extra challenge, try a full plank by pushing back onto your toes, remembering to keep your bottom in line with your back and shoulders (no cheating!). Jump forward to bring your feet to your hands (or step if you’re on your knees) and jump straight up, raising your hands to bring momentum to the jump. When you land, crouch back down and jump or step back to a plank position. Repeat at least 10 times.
Call (08) 9272 7359 and speak with our expert personal trainers here in Happy Physio now!