Managing Lower Back Disc Pain In Horse Riders

Do You Have A Back Injury And Struggling To Return To Riding?

Correct Exercises And Movement Patterns Will get You Back Riding.

An injury to the disc, in the lower back, is one of the most common injuries horse riders suffer.  A herniated disc is the most common diagnosis.  In fact, it is one of the most common injuries everybody suffers. I treat this injury in my Physiotherapy practice and via my online program. I get many emails from horse riders searching for help. They are looking for a program that is specific to horse riders who suffer from back pain. Functional Pilates is the key. Many riders are baffled as to how their injury happened because they don't remember having an injury. Well, this is where having knowledge of your injury, your body, your posture and what you do every day and also, what you don't do every day, can make a difference. A difference to how you heal and recover and how you protect yourself in the future as well as advise others around you.

I get many emails from horse riders searching for help. They are looking for a person or a program that is specific to horse riders who suffer from back pain. Functional Pilates is the key. Many riders are baffled as to how their injury happened because they don't remember having an injury. Well, this is where having knowledge of your injury, your body, your posture and what you do every day and also, what you don't do every day, can make a difference. The difference can be, to how you heal and recover and how you protect yourself in the future, as well as advise others around you.

Understanding The Mechanism Of The Lower Back Disc.

15932304 back ache The disc is a pressure absorbing structure and horse riding and caring for a horse are pressure producing activities. The disc is vulnerable every day and subject to many micro pressures. Riding and being jarred around in the saddle is not the only trauma to consider. Lifting feed buckets, lifting and swinging rugs on and off, lifting gear and float ramps, cleaning stables all impact the disc every time. Repetitive micro trauma. Caring for a horse requires a much back work as riding does. 16317505 lumbar vertebrae 

The spine is made up of the vertebra and between each vertebra is a disc. The discs are made of strong fibro flexible like tissue which allows the spine to be flexible. A disc has a stronger fibrous outer part, and a softer jelly-like middle part called the nucleus pulposus. Nerves from the spinal cord come out from between the vertebrae to relay messages to and from various parts of the body. Strong ligaments keep the vertebra in line and supported. The muscles also give extra support and strength to the spine.

The core is the primary muscle supporting the spine. This muscle is the first to switch off with a back injury. asymmetry spine websize So how do we have an injury and not know it? Repetitive micro pressures build up and cause micro-tears in the outer structure of the disc. This happens every day, every activity. When the pressure increases to a point of failure in the outer structure the disc will "tear" and the pulpy bit will spill out under pressure and result in a 'Prolapse" disc. A prolapsed disc can also be labelled a  slipped disc or a herniated disc. The prolapsed bit may sit on nerve resulting in what is known as sciatic pain. Inflammation and swelling develop around the prolapsed part of the disc, the nerve and the ligaments causing pain which often intense. The position of the bulge can cause a person to tilt away from the bulge and for the muscles to spasm aggressively.

A prolapsed disc can also be labelled a  slipped disc or a herniated disc. The prolapsed bit may sit on nerve resulting in what is known as sciatic pain. Inflammation and swelling develop around the prolapsed part of the disc, the nerve and the ligaments causing pain which often intense. The position of the bulge can cause a person to tilt away from the bulge and for the muscles to spasm aggressively.

How Do We Manage This Injury?

The first thing is to accept that you can be injured without actually knowing it has happened. Lifting every day is enough. A correct diagnosis is important and correct early treatment is essential. If this inflammatory reaction is appropriately managed early, then most disc injuries should heal, as with any other structure.  If it is poorly managed it can lead to painful restriction to movement, and long-term disability. liftinhEarly intensive treatment from the Doctor and Physiotherapist aimed at returning normal movement and function, and controlling the inflammatory response and pain, can have a dramatic impact on the fate of that injury. Pain needs to be managed as does the inflammation, muscle spasms, and movement. Rest is important as is exercise. I certainly recommend prescribed medicines from a Dr. for pain and inflammation. Some may need a drug for the nerve pain. I use heat for the spams, others use ice, both work well. Laying flat is important, as is gentle exercise including walking, floor exercises and of course core work. I recommend the use of a back brace and find those that wear one in the acute stages recover better and are more functional earlier. You won't get addicted to it! Now the severity will vary. backBraceA prolapsed disc can be a minor bulge or a full blown tear. Clinical reasoning after an assessment plus or minus an MRI will determine the recovery time.

The first 6 weeks is all about managing the symptoms and respecting the healing time.

Rest is important and rest includes stopping harm. Do not lift, twist, drag anything. Do not ride other than a gentle walk around maybe. Do not fall off! Housework should be avoided too! (shame really). Wear your brace when around the stables to protect your back and if your pain is severe wear it when out every time. Respect time and understand the healing mechanism.

The inflammation is the first wave of cells to heal and over time the collagen structures will mend and the disc will granulate over with scar tissue. The movement will help the structures and muscles adjust, the biggie though is not doing any further harm! Bending does harm!

Back pain from poor horse handling techniques. You must understand, the disc will continue to be under pressure as it heals and you have to control how much pressure it will suffer. Continuous small bends and lifts will do harm. However, the pain will settle with time and you will start to feel better after a few weeks, this is the dangerous time because we tend to think all is well. Be aware of NO PAIN.

The movement will help the structures and muscles adjust, the biggie though is not doing any further harm! Bending does harm!  Back pain from poor horse handling techniques. You must understand, the disc will continue to be under pressure as it heals and you have to control how much pressure it will suffer. Continuous small bends and lifts will do harm. However pain will settle with time and you will start to feel better after a few weeks, this is the dangerous time because we tend to think all is well. MANAGE NO PAIN! I tell this to all my patients...we manage pain but once the pain settles we forget we are injured. It is very important to respect healing time, a minimum of 6 weeks for any injury and even more for back injuries. If you think you can change the time you will only double it, or even triple the time needed to recover. You cannot cheat this or think you can ignore it.

So How Do You Manage A  Back Injury As A Horse Rider?

  • Seek a professional assessment from a Physio or a Doctor.
  • Take pain medication and or anti-inflammatory meds as needed.
  • Use heat and or ice.
  • Rest, spend time laying flat at least through the acute stage.
  • Do floor exercises, including lumbar rolls and core crunches.
  • Wear a back brace for support.
  • No riding for at least 6 weeks.
  • No lifting 6 weeks.
  • Gradually add incorrect core and flexibility exercises.
  • Respect time and the injury and allow yourself to recover.

I have suffered my own disc injuries, I follow my own advice and I still ride. I wear a back brace as soon as  I feel a niggle and every time I handle heavy feed. I follow my own core training program and target the movement patterns that are specific for me. If you suffer from an injury and need a help look at my Applied Posture Riding program and of course you can contact me and ask any questions.

I love this topic Good Luck Annette Willson Author " Applied Posture Riding" If you want to buy this program or host a clinic and learn how to ride with an independent balanced seat as well as manage your back injury then go to the HOME page.

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