Herniated disc back squash injury
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Herniated disc back squash injury experience by Bob Clothier from Philadelphia

I am a 42 year old A level squash player. I herniated my L5-S1 disk from playing lots of squash this past year. I can't play squash for a while, perhaps forever.

How it happened? I had back pain for over four months. Rarely was the pain bad. Once or twice I had to stop playing someone, and it felt better the next day.

A month after the nationals, when I was playing less squash, I started to feel pain down my right leg -- what is called sciatica. Over five days it became worse and worse to the point I could barely walk, never mind run. The diagnosis is clearly a herniated disk. Two months later, and I still feel the pain down my leg, although it is much better. I no longer need painkillers. I still cannot run or play squash. All I can do is the stationary bike and stretching exercises. The key thing is not to let your muscles in the back deteriorate, which will make things worse.

What to prevent it? Rest when you have back pain. Perhaps see a chiropractor, although my doctors don't recommend them. Stretch! This injury sometimes happens in people with tight hamstrings. Make sure when you're playing that you bend at your knees, not at your back. Understand that you're getting older and don't push so damn hard.

The bottom line is that squash is extremely hard on the back. I likely had a disk that was degenerating naturally, and my squash was the final straw.

Comment by a reader

I'm in Toronto and have herniation on both left and right side after 20 years of B club squash, each subsequent event gets worse and pain lasts longer. My current episode has lasted for 2 months. I tried to play after three weeks and only reagravated the disk. Do not lie down, it makes it worse, i take flexoril for spasm and aspirin( good for the heart as well). Try and walk straight and do not let your posture lean or scolious. My chiro has exacerbated the disk on two of my four episodes, effectively CAUSING more herniation; so do NOT let them randomly crack your back. The pin cushion needle/acupunture does little for me as well.

The best is time and slow stretching and core abdominal work, also push ups keeping body on floor, this stretches psoas and can help. Keep inflamation down and dont overworkoryour get a setback that takes weeks to come back from. Will I play more squash; i hope so!!

Comment by a reader

I must say that my experience with backpain and squash is quite the oposite of those listed here, without implying they are wrong. I'm 26 years old and I had lower back pain since 19, and gradually deteriorated through a series of injuires, some in squash, some in soccer, until the point where I had a very deteriorated L4-L5 disk (not herniated). At some point it got intolerable. I was unable to even sit for a long time. I went to the orthopedist and the MRI showed I had no major damage and that the bulging was very minor, even though the pain was intolerable. So, I started very slowly with physical therapy (PT) to strengthen everything from my legs to my abs to my lower back. After about a month I began with personal training at the gym, which further strenthened my back. It was slowly getting better. I had been off of squash for 2 years, and at this point I thought I could probably play w/o much injury (I was very afraid to play before). I did play and it was magic. Nothing I had done before was ever as good for my back as playing squash. I kept palying, alongside strengthening at the gym, and my back is in great shape now. So, my advise is, if you are young and professional advise tells you you have no major damage, bulid up your strength slowly but with discipline, stretch, eat healthy (I also quit caffeine, which can dehidrate your muscles and deprive your disks of liquid) and enjoy the game, knowing your limitations.

Comment by a reader

I am 34 years old and started playing squash when I was 26. After 4 years of playing, I developed a strong pain in the lower left side of my back. It continued to get worse until one day, something popped and I buckled over in pain on the court. For the next 2 months, I could barely bend over to put on my shoes and I had sciatica down my left leg. After 8 months, the pain went away and I , foolishly, started playing squash again. After a few games, my back became sore again and I stopped playing squash for good.

Unfortunately, my adventure did not end there. In March 2007 I had to go for a microdisectomy at the L4/L5 level to remove the portion of the herniated disc as it was causing some neurological issues in my left foot. In January 2008, I sneezed and herniated the disc again and had to go for a 2nd surgery in July 2008 at the same L4/L5 level to remove the portion of the disc. The pain was so extreme prior to the 2nd surgery, that I could not stand or walk for more than 2 minutes without having a massive throbbing pain in my left leg, left side of my groin/scrotum, left side of my stomach and left buttock. I am now 6 months post 2nd surgery and still have some pain/numbness in my left leg. I am just grateful that I am able to walk relatively pain free and can sit for more than 10 minutes without being in pain.

The surgeon indicated that I have a weak core and have to work on that or else I could herniate again. So, to you all you squash players young and old, make sure you do your core exercises, stretch daily (whether you are playing or not) and take it easy if you experience any minor back pain. It is really not worth taking the risk just to play that extra game. I feel lucky that I had a surgeon who was able to relieve the problem.....but each day I_m still worried that another sneeze will herniate the disc or a minor slip on a some ice will cause another problem. Since I have already had 2 surgeries....the 3rd one would have to be a fusion or a artificial disc.

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