In most cases, lower back pain after playing soccer is related to a muscle strain which can often feel like aching, burning, or a muscle spasm.
What causes lower back pain after playing soccer?
Similar to other explosive sports, back pain after soccer is generally related to higher intensity levels of training and play without the body being ready for such high intensity.
Often time, athletes worry about the wrong things; fractures, disc herniations, and infections.
As I was looking through the top google results I noticed that most of them didn’t give a great explanation as to the cause of low back pain in soccer players, nor did they cover what to do about it.
In addition to higher levels of intensity during practice and during games, soccer players also undergo many different body positions. When heading a ball you might be jumping bending backwards and then violently forwards.
When receiving a pass with your chest, you might also be bending backwards through your lumbar spine to receive it.
It’s not uncommon to fall down several times during a match as well, whether you are slide tackling, lose your footing, or from being knocked down. Each of these can cause you to land in awkward positions that may affect your back.
Most of the time back pain, even severe pain, is not any cause for major concern and will usually improve in a few weeks with modified activity and a gradual return to play.
What can you do to reduce symptoms and improve them?
I recommend following the guidelines of the american academy of orthopedic surgeons and the american academy of family physicians. They recommend return to normal activities as soon as possible while taking into account severity of symptoms. They also do not recommend getting imaging (x-ray or MRI) early if it’s not due to trauma and no fracture is suspected.
Over the counter non-steriodal inflammatory medications can also be used to reduce symptoms such as tylenol and ibuprofen (advil).
Ice, heat, massage, and other modalities can also be useful to manage symptoms as they subside.
As usual, a combination of these approaches is best, while giving your body adequate time to recover. Think of this as active recovery, where you are still being active and even practicing to tolerance, not passive recovery where you are just resting and not doing any physical activity.
Passive recovery is not as effective as active recovery, and, if you rest too long you will lose some of your competitive edge as your fitness levels can decrease rather quickly (aerobic).
What can you do to prevent lower back pain after soccer?
The most important thing that you can do to prevent a severe bout of lower back pain is to ensure that you are doing two things.
- Implement a strength training routine that includes back strengthening exercises through a full range of motion
- Bent over rows 3 x 10
- Back hyperextensions 3 x 10
- Supermans 3 x 10
- Goodmornings 3 x 10
- Implement a spinal mobility routine
- Cobra 2×10
- Standing backwards bend 2×10
- Jefferson Curl 2×10
- Thread the needle w/ sprinters stretch 2×10
With any pain and injury, there can be no guarantee, no matter how solid your training is, that you will 100% prevent these occurrences. It’s simply not possible.
What you will be doing by implementing these exercises into your routine is reducing your risk of pain and injury.
These exercises can easily be added to your already existing lifting routine. I’m hoping you have one as it greatly reduces your risk of ACL tears, too.
If you don’t have a training program and can’t afford to hire a dedicated trainer, i’ll be building a training program that you can purchase that will help get you started on a strength training routine. You can purchase it by clicking here on this link once it’s live.
If you’re curious about how to further modify you exercise routine, you can read this article that I wrote.
Are disc herniations common with soccer players?
No, disc herniations are not common among soccer players. While it is possible to experience a large herniated disc from playing soccer, it is no greater a risk than any other sport. And, what’s more, that risk is small.
Are pars spinal compression fractures common?
Spinal compression fractures are very uncommon as well when it comes to soccer players, particularly men who are < age 65.
Generally, this occurs as a hyperflexion (spine bent forward) or hyperextension (spine bent backwards) injury, usually from landing in an extreme position with additional load applied to the spinal column, often from another player.
As said before, this is very uncommon and not something that you should be actively worried about unless you experienced the above event.
What about other sports?
If you are also a golfer or know someone who is, this article about if you should play golf with back pain is a good one.