With the return of the World Snooker Championships to our screens comes a sharp reminder of the ubiquitous nature of low back pain and that isn’t choosy over who it affects, be this sportsmen and women or you or me. Ricky Walden has recently been given special dispensation to wear trainers in the championships to help him deal with the low back pain that he and many of us know all too well, Ricky’s pain is reportedly associated with a bulging disc in his low back.
For those asking, Ricky Walden has been given special dispensation to wear trainers because of the back problems he has been struggling with for almost a year.
— BBC Snooker (@BBCSnooker) December 7, 2017
In a story just like the ones we hear in the clinic every day, Ricky talks about picking up his son and feeling an instant pain in his low back. All too commonly, it can be these bending and/or twisting movements that are the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Small areas of wear in the intervertebral discs, the cartilaginous spacers between our vertebrae, can become inflamed and quite quickly lead to huge amounts of pain and a whole array of symptoms from intense low back pain, pain on sitting down, or standing up straight, to sciatic pain in the leg, numbness, pins and needles and even weakness in the legs. All of a sudden, the fully functioning back that you took for granted yesterday is painful every time you move, and you feel like you’re never going to be the same again.
Hopefully, as Ricky serves to demonstrate to us, this doesn’t mean it’s time for your fast track ticket to the knackers’ yard; there is hope! The vast majority of us will have some minor degenerative changes within our spinal discs and never know anything about it; it is the price we pay for walking on two legs. The mere fact that the majority of us are going about our daily lives without disabling pain serves to demonstrate that disc wear doesn’t equal pain. However, it can develop into an acute episode of low back pain, with or without symptoms into the leg/s, lasting for weeks or months at a time. Again, be safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of these cases also fully resolve. Time is a great healer, and our physiotherapists and osteopath are experienced in helping speed up the process.
It is only in rare cases that symptoms don’t resolve, or sometimes they do, only to rear their ugly heads another six months down the line. It is usually at this stage that your GP may consider referring you to have an X-ray or MRI of your lower back to assess the extent of any degenerative changes in your spinal discs and joints. In Ricky Walden’s case, presumably this was sufficient enough for his orthopaedic consultant to suggest a steroid injection into the spine to try and speed up the healing process and decrease the inflammation, alongside this physiotherapy rehab. It is unfortunate for him that he spends long periods of time bent over a snooker table, thankfully most of us are happy to leave this to the experts.
Spinal flexion puts more pressure through the back of the spinal discs, hence why bending is often painful. However, keeping moving is recommended as it keeps your spinal muscles strong and aids the blood circulation to them, which will aid your body’s natural healing mechanisms. Trying to keep to your normal routine where possible has also been shown to have significantly positive effects of rehabilitation and speed of return to normal.
Research has also shown that a course of physiotherapy, osteopathy or massage therapy can also help aid recovery from low back pain, with or without associated symptoms in the leg. At Newcastle Sports Injury Clinics based in Newcastle city centre, Jesmond and Alnwick, we can offer diagnosis, advice, treatment and rehabilitation programs bespoke to your individual needs.
May we wish Ricky Walden a speedy recovery and we look forward to watching him compete in future snooker tournaments.