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Fall Sports Are Almost Here! Prevent Bleacher Back

It’s already August, and that means school will soon be back in session, and a new sports season is just around the corner. The excitement of cheering on your favorite team makes it easy to forget just how uncomfortable those bleachers can be, at least until you feel that dull, aching lower back pain.

While there’s not an official name for the discomfort caused by sitting on bleachers, this pain is often called Bleacher Back. What is it about those hardwood or metal bleachers that causes so much pain?

“Sitting on hard or metal stadium seating causes pain simply because bleachers are hard, so it puts pressure on the bones we use while sitting,” says Amanda Gargano, nurse practitioner in The Spine Center at Indiana University Health West Hospital. “Also, with no back support, the pressure can cause inflammation.”

The pressure caused by sitting on bleachers can eventually cause strain on the lower back and core muscles, but the solution is simple. In fact, your mother has been encouraging it for years.

“The best way to prevent bleacher back is to maintain good posture,” says Nathan Prahlow, MD in The Spine Center at IU Health West Hospital. “In a casual environment like a basketball game, it’s easy to slouch without realizing you’re doing it. To decrease the chance of prolonged back pain, it’s important to intentionally think about your posture.”

In addition to practicing good posture, don’t stay in the same sitting position throughout the entire event. Change sitting positions, stretch and give your back a break by taking a walk. It’s also helpful to invest in a stadium chair that provides back support.

After the game, a little bit of back pain is normal. Try stretches that target the lower back, icing the back or taking over-the-counter pain relievers.

If pain persists, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a specialist.

“If a person experiences neck or back pain that doesn’t resolve with rest or over-the-counter pain relievers, it’s time to make an appointment,” Dr. Prahlow says. “If the pain gets worse, or if a person feels weakness, numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, those also are signs to be seen.”

The Spine Center at IU Health West Hospital treats a variety of spine problems involving muscles, joints and nerves. To make an appointment with one of the highly skilled physicians in The Spine Center at IU Health West Hospital, please call 317-217-2225.

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