Skip to content

Relieve neck & back pain and get back to your life

Majority of adults experience back pain in their active lives. Most back pain and issues can be resolved through non-surgical procedures and therapies.

The back is a stabilizing column for the core of the body and provides structural support, movement, and protection to certain tissues and organs. There is an upper core and lower core. The back is composed of four regions that are each susceptible to various injuries, particularly in athletics and overuse. The four regions are 1) neck, or cervical spine, 2) thoracic spine, 3) lumbar spine, or low back, and 4) sacrum and coccyx.

VSMD Approach

At VSMD, we diagnose back injuries and issues by analyzing medical history, conducting a physical exam, and using imaging such as ultrasound and x-ray. Based on the findings, the doctor may recommend a conservative treatment to reduce pain and allow the back to heal properly. In case of a major issue, the doctor may prescribe a more involved approach to initiate the healing process.

For most back issues, a non-surgical regiment with frequent evaluation by the doctor is the best course. At VSMD, we treat each patient through a holistic lens. Our doctors not only evaluate the back and neck but also accompanying systems.


Causes of Back Injuries and Pain

Pain in the back can be a result of conditions affecting the lumbar, intervertebral discs, ligaments around the spine and discs, nerves, muscles of the low back, and sometimes the internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen.

Low back pain in athletes

Low back pain in athletes covers various issues and can be caused by injuries, ranging from strained muscles and ligaments to bony abnormalities. Athletes in all sports are susceptible to low back pain and injury. Injuries to the lumbar area (low back) can be acute (occurring suddenly) or chronic (occurring gradually over time). Low back pain can be categorized as follows:

Mechanical injuries are common, and involve strain to the muscles or ligaments of the back from overuse. Typical symptoms are soreness over the injured area that can radiate; for instance, pain due to injury of the sacroiliac joints (the joints between the tailbone and pelvis) can travel into the buttocks.

Discogenic pain refers to injury to the spinal discs, which provide cushioning between the vertebrae or spine bones. When the outside of the disc becomes inflamed or torn, the athlete can experience pain. Overtime, the jelly-like substance inside the disc can push through the tears and bulge onto surrounding nerves, causing further pain. In severe cases, this is referred to as a “herniated disc.” Symptoms are often described as a burning or electric sensation that travels down one leg, sometimes with tingling in the toes (commonly referred to as “sciatica”). The pain can worsen with bending at the waist or raising the legs. Disc herniation is rare in young athletes.

Vertebral body fractures are much rarer but have been reported in athletes in volleyball, gymnastics, and weightlifting. The pain and abrupt onset often mimics that of a herniated disc but typically lacks the neurologic signs (symptoms affecting the nerves). Muscle spasms often accompany this injury. This injury is rare in the spectrum of lower back pain.

Spondylolysis (see Spondylolysis section)


Spondylolysis is a fracture of part of a vertebrae (bone of the spine). The fracture is associated with repetitive hyperextension of the spine. This injury is common in athletes like gymnasts, divers, wrestlers, rowers, and football linemen. Risk factors are repetitive hyperextension exercises, no rest period between seasons, year long training in one sport in which hyperextension is routine, and training that does not include core cross-training.

Symptoms of spondylolysis include pain in the mid to low back, pain that is worse with extension of the spine, and sometimes radiation of the pain into the buttocks or legs.

arthritis or degeneration, osteoarthritis

As we age, the water and protein content of the body’s cartilage changes. This change results in weaker, thinner, and more fragile cartilage. Because both the discs and the joints that stack the vertebrae are partly composed of cartilage, these areas can wear and tear over time causing degenerative changes.

Stingers and burners

Stingers, also known as burners, are common injuries in contact sports, such as football and rugby, wrestling, hockey, basketball, and boxing.  A stinger results from either direct contact or stretching of  nerves as they exit the neck and travel down the arm on the same side as injury. Symptoms can include pain described as electrical sensation down the arm or as burning pain.

Cervical Strain and sprains

Cervical strain or sprain is a neck injury that involves the muscles or ligaments of the neck. This type of injury can happen in any sport when there is a collision between two athletes, a fall, or contact with impact to the head and/ or neck. In some collisions or falls, the neck may not be directly injured, but the force of the injury may cause a whiplash of the neck and cause a sprain or strain. These injuries are more common in football, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, and soccer. 

Symptoms of a neck strain or sprain may include soreness or stiffness in the neck muscles. Movement of the neck may be limited due to pain and stiffness and muscle spasms are common.

pinched nerve (Radiculopthy)

Radiculopathy is a term used to define pain that radiates or starts in the neck or low back and travels down the arm or leg. Radiculopathy is commonly called a pinched nerve. Nerves coming off of the spinal cord exit the neck (cervical spine) and low back (lumbar spine). Each of these nerves supply sensation and movement to specific muscles and areas of skin and soft tissue. When one (or more) nerves are “pinched”, pain or change in sensation may be felt in the arm or leg, away from where the nerve is affected in the back. 

Symptoms of radiculopathy may include pain in the back, numbness or tingling, pain described as electrical sensation or burning in the limbs or hands/feet, weakness with certain movements. Each of these symptoms may be made worse with specific movements and improve with others.

disc herniation

The vertebral disc is located between two back bones (vertebrae). The disc provides cushioning between these two bones. Disc herniation is when the cushioning is torn and bulges out. This bulging causes pressure on nerves exiting the spinal column. When the disc causes pressure on the nerves, a person may experience radiating pain into the limbs of the body. The pain experienced may feel like an electric shock type of pain, burning pain, or sharp pain with certain movements. Other symptoms may include numbness or tingling or weakness. 

The disc may herniate for a couple of reasons. 1) Injury or trauma that causes rupture of the disc, or 2) wear-and-tear over time causes degeneration and tearing in the disc. 

Don't let neck & back pain define your life


Virginia Sports Medicine Doctors are specialty trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent NECK & BACK pain and injury.