Physiotherapy - Low Back Pain in Athletes


  • The lumbar spine is a segmented, flexible rod which supports the load of the body, protects the spinal cord and allows flexibility in all directions.
  • The lumbar spine is made up primarily of bony vertebra connected by discs and facet joints.
  • The lumbar discs are made  of a flexible “jelly” like material surrounded by an outer shell that is much like an onion skin and acts as a shock absorber.  As we grow older the discs dry out and loose height causing the vertebra to sit closer together.

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Low back pain

  • Low back pain is the most common musculo-skeletal complaint in western societies and athletes are no exception.  There are many possible causes of low back pain.
  • Discs are commonly injured during flexion activities i.e. bending, prolonged sitting or twisting. In the flexed position the contents of the discs are pushed backwards placing pressure on the weakest area of the disc posteriorly.  This may cause the contents of the disc to bulge out.  The bulging tissue will become inflamed and painful and in severe cases can compress nerves and surrounding tissues referring pain into the legs.
  • Athletes suffer acute mechanical back pain in about the same proportions as do members of the general population.  The good news however is that a greater proportion of athletes respond favourable to conservative treatment and far fewer athletes progress to chronic, disabling low back pain due to their fitness and stronger musculature.


  • Physiotherapists are experts at treating low back pain. We can assess, diagnose and treat appropriately to get you back to sport and normal activity as soon as possible. Treatment may include mobilisation, manipulation, stretching and strengthening to prevent re -occurrence.  Discs can be “pushed back in” by a series of exercises known as the McKenzie method.