Why it’s important for athletes to manage back pain

Back pain is something that affects millions of people around the world. Here in Australia the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017–18 National Health estimate about 4 million Australians (16% of the population) have back problems.

Back “problems” cover a wide range of conditions related to the bones, joints, connective tissues, muscles and nerves in the back. 

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is one of the most common reasons for people to miss work or go to the doctor.

Back pain can also be caused by nearby organs, so it is important to fully understand the pain you are feeling to help with a more accurate diagnosis. Your kidneys and liver are located nearby and can be confused with back pain.

What causes back pain?

Most back pain comes from the spine and the muscles that support it. Injury, poor posture and straining your back during exercise can cause back pain. It can also be caused by an issue with some of the organs located nearby such as the kidneys or heart disorders.

Due to the complex nature of the back, there are many symptoms that are associated with back pain and many people live with mild back pain for long periods of their life. Symptoms of back pain can include:

  • A dull aching sensation in the lower back
  • A stabbing or shooting sensation that can travel down the leg to the foot
  • Inability to stand up straight without pain
  • A decreased range of motion
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness in one or both legs

Whilst some mild back pain will go away without treatment, especially if you stretch on a regular basis, you should see a specialist if your back pain persists.

Chiropractic adjustments

If you are living with back pain, a chiropractic adjustment may help to free up your back and help to reduce pain and increase your range of motion.

This is especially true if you are an athlete. Chiropractic adjustments are not just for professional athletes. If you play golf, run, go to the gym, play a contact sport such as AFL or you are generally an active person, back pain can seriously limit your ability to carry on doing the things you love.

Not only that, but you can also make the condition worse if you carry on as normal, playing through the pain barrier or using over-the-counter pain relief in order to carry on playing sport.

A chiropractic adjustment may help to keep you on your feet by working to progress your flexibility and range of motion. Further, a chiropractic adjustment may help to reduce inflammation and repair damaged tissue through soft tissue work.

Athletes with back problems

Professional athletes, for obvious reasons, need to keep their bodies in prime condition in order to keep performing at the highest level. Back injuries are extremely common with professional athletes and there are a number of high-profile cases of these athletes not managing their back problems that have led to further issues down the line.

Perhaps the most famous example of this is golfer Tiger Woods. At his peak, Woods suffered from ongoing back problems, however, through medication and an unbelievable desire to win despite the pain, Woods carried on playing and ultimately made the issue much worse.

Woods has since had to undergo four separate back surgeries, undergoing microdiscectomy procedures in 2014 and twice in 2015 in an attempt to stop his back pain. Three months after his third surgery, he told reporters that he didn’t know whether he would play golf again, “I have no answer for that. Neither does my surgeon or my physio,” he said. “There’s no timetable. There’s really nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build toward.

Then in 2017, Woods went under the knife again as doctors performed a minimally invasive spinal fusion at L5/S1.

Woods famously bounced back from these surgeries, claiming his fifteenth Major title at the 2019 Masters. This victory, at the age of 43, defied the odds given the surgeries he had been through at that point. Woods swings a golf club at over 100mph so it is perhaps no surprise that golfers are one of the most susceptible athletes when it comes to back injuries.

Despite his numerous back surgeries, coupled with his recovery from a serious car crash in February 2021, he remains one of the biggest sports stars in the game and is priced at 34.00 with Betway Sports to win the 2023 Masters title in Augusta, Georgia. Defying the odds is what Woods does and it would be no surprise to see him pull on the Green Jacket once again next April.


Whilst you may not be a professional athlete like Tiger Woods, it is still important to protect your back. If you are suffering from back pain, make sure you see a specialist and get the treatment you need to improve your mobility and flexibility as well as reduce your pain.