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Back to school is still weeks away but students involved in team sports are already back on the practice field. Teens are tough on their bodies with the intense practice and training schedules they face. Dr. Stephen Courtney of Advanced Spine Center in Plano says there are ways to avoid costly and unnecessary surgery for common back injuries.

“Right now, it’s summertime and a lot of young athletes are doing two-a-days and hitting the workout facilities so the most common injury I see in my office on a daily basis is the facet joints in the lower back become painful. They’re like the size of your knuckles on either side of your back and have their own pain fibers. Twisting and turning aggravates those joints,” says Dr. Courtney.  

Dr. Courtney says a pars stress fracture in the back is also very common. Many athletes including cheerleaders, gymnasts, football players, basketball players and even golfers experience this type of injury.

If a child is complaining of back pain, Dr. Courtney advises to first try a few days of rest to see if the back pain resolves on its own. If they go back to their activity and it becomes more painful, it’s time to seek attention from a spine specialist.

“The teen will most likely need either an X-ray, a CT scan or an MRI. A CT scan of the back shows the bone anatomy a lot better. An MRI may show if you have a bone bruise which is very painful. If you can catch that early you can treat it quicker and more effectively,” continues Dr. Courtney.

If your child is experiencing night pain, Dr. Courtney recommends they come in sooner to ensure there is no underlying cause like a tumor which he sees two to three times a year. “If your child is saying ‘my back hurts’ often, there may be an underlying problem beneath it.”  

One of the biggest concerns for athletes is recovery time as they want to get back to playing their sport as quickly as possible. However, treating back pain takes time. First and foremost, kids need to be patient and rest. Recommended treatment typically includes a heating pad and ice. Depending on the severity of the injury, an anti-inflammatory, brace or even physical therapy may be recommended to help them regain their strength.

Dr. Courtney offers a few tips which teens should follow to help prevent this type of injury. “Athletes should do cross training – instead of just doing squats, or dead lifts, they should utilize a spin bicycle which can help improve flexibility in the quads, hamstrings and glut muscles. Yoga keeps the muscles moving and warm. Swimming is another great form of exercise that is good for the joints in your back and good for your cardiovascular system as well,” says Dr. Courtney.

To learn more, visit advancedspinecenters.com, or call 1-833-60SPINE. Advanced Spine Center is located at 1705 Ohio Drive, Suite 300 in Plano. Dr. Courtney personally sees every patient and discusses full treatment options available.