A wellness approach to athletic recovery

By: Cyrus Sepahbodi

During high school I played football on the varsity team as a defensive linemen. In college I ran track and field to keep myself in shape. After college I joined my local gym to keep myself healthy and build muscle mass. Yet one fateful day during a lifting and cardio class I injured my back while doing box jumps. It was halfway through the class and as I was landing during a strenuous set, I landed off balance with a distinct pop followed by immediate pain shooting through my lower spine. An emergency room visit, x-ray, and a pain killer later, my doctor told me that I had potentially slipped one of the disks in my vertebrae. For the next few months my experience with back pain made it necessary for me to start doing physical therapy to keep my ability to walk properly. With one small landing, I joined the 31 million adults who suffer from back pain. Having back pain was stressful, emotionally draining, and isolative. Not being able to walk properly and exercise, my health began to suffer. I had to start being proactive about my health and wellness in order to combat the pain and return to normal life. But not all back pain is restricted to those with injury. Most professional athletes can develop back pain due to the physical activities or contact sports that they play. Unchecked back pain can debilitate and degrade the ability of athletes to perform at their top level. But there are methods and practices that can help combat and manage back pain for athletes. It requires being mindful and proactive about self care and pain management. 

Causes of Back Pain in Athletes

Back pain is one of the most common types of pain that an athlete can experience. Not only can pain can be a large burden, causing downtime and missed games, but athletes can potentially injure themselves for life if back pain isn’t addressed properly. Impact is predominantly the most common cause of back pain in athletes. According to a CDC review of National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data, An estimated 20.4% (50.0 million) of U.S. adults had chronic pain and 8.0% of U.S. adults (19.6 million) had high-impact chronic pain. Athletes typically have a greater risk of sustaining injury due to the nature of their physical activity. The spine and back muscles undergo a lot of stress, pressure, twisting, turning, and impact. Naturally, physical activity puts a strain on the back and athletes are more prone to injury.

How to Manage Back Pain

So how can athletes prevent, or manage their back pain? There is no simple answer but if you are an athlete, you can take several steps to help manage your pain:

Physical Therapy & Massage Therapy

Physical therapy is one of the primary ways of treating and preventing back pain in athletes. Physical therapists can design a recovery program that is based specifically on your pain. Using a combination of strengthening, stretching and low-impact exercises, physical therapy allows an athlete to recover under medical supervision. Massage therapy is another fantastic method for helping an athlete manage their back pain. A massage therapist can help reduce stress, improve circulation, improve sleep, and reduce fatigue. 

Stretching, Core Training & Yoga As Recovery Exercises

Yoga and recovery stretching is a must for athletes who are dealing with back pain. Restorative yoga can help increase mobility, strengthen back muscles, and relieve back pain in athletes naturally. Core exercises also help strengthen muscles in the abdomen, which can help support your spine. The stronger your abs become, the less likely you will experience pain in your back.

Use Heat & Ice Regularly

Apply a cold ice pack following a workout or game and alternate to using a heating pad applied to your back. Using ice and heat can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and help with recovery in athletes. Apply ice packs to your back several times a day for at least 20 minutes. After icing, it is a good idea for athletes to switch to heat with a heating pad, a hot bath, or sauna (if you have access to one). Heat loosens tight muscles that cause pain.

CBD For Back Pain in Athletes

Cannabidiol (CBD) is another great recovery and pain management option for athletes with back pain. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that work with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors in the body to regulate pain and inflammation. Through these receptors, the ECS regulates appetite, digestion, immune function, inflammation, mood, sleep, reproduction, memory and pain. CBD promotes homeostasis in the body, reduces pain sensations and decreases inflammation by interacting with the ECS. 

Athletes considering CBD as a work-out recovery supplement or as a means to help manage their back pain may consider the risks of being drug tested. When a drug test is performed, the active chemical in marijuana that gets detected in a positive screening is THC. There may be trace amounts of THC in the products you use, so to be absolutely sure to always read the testing label or the COA of the product. But this is not the case with Hemp-derived CBD. CBD derived from Hemp (Cannabis Sativa L), such as the our Hemp Balm, Hemp Drops, or Hemp Capsules, does not contain any THC and will pass drug testing. 

Incorporating CBD post-workout or combined with any of the above mentioned methods of treatment can help with pain management. I recommend the Releaf Soak, Releaf Patches, and Releaf Balm. If you’re feeling severe pain, transdermal patches will penetrate through all layers of skin and enter the bloodstream near the targeted area so the cannabinoids will work to relieve pain in the specific area first prior to spreading throughout the whole body. Papa & Barkley’s transdermal patches will microdose throughout a 12-hour period. Keep in mind, the Releaf line of products does contain varying ratios of THC to CBD and would therefore not be suitable if you are an athlete that will undergo drug testing. Instead, take a look at our Hemp CBD products. 

Wellness is a Lifestyle

Whether you use some of the options I described above or all, back pain for athletes is an important issue. Taking care of your body and mind starts with incorporating wellness into your daily routine. Managing back pain as an athlete can be a burden, but with the techniques described above you can start your wellness journey. When I injured my back 13 years ago, using cannabis and CBD as plant medicine for pain relief was not as prevalent as it is today. I used physical therapy and pain killers to treat my injury, but if this happened today I would immediately turn to natural cannabis remedies like Papa & Barkley’s pain Balms, a solid yoga practice, and regular exercise to recover. It is never too late to take advantage of the healing properties of cannabis and work towards recovery. 

Ready to Manage Your Back Pain?

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