Internet forums are full of questions concerning the connection between back pain and trampoline use. There are many different types of injuries that can occur from jumping on a trampoline, from pulled muscles to head trauma. The types of injury below may cause back pain.
Back pain after trampolining may be caused by muscle strain. Jumping on a trampoline works muscles throughout the legs, pelvis and back, particularly stabilizer muscles. Stabilizer muscles work to protect the spine; they engage before you perform an activity, bracing the spine against harmful compression. Ideally, this bracing protects spinal discs and joints by keeping the spine aligned and absorbing some of the impact exerted on the body by movements like jumping up and down.
If your stabilizer muscles are weak, they will likely become strained (or “pulled”) from trampolining. Strained muscles suffer small tears that normally heal within three days. Localized inflammation causes pain, swelling and tenderness to the touch. A pulled muscle also hurts when it is used. Since the muscles of the back are used in nearly every motion, they can cause a significant amount of pain when pulled and take a little extra time to heal.
It is particularly easy to strain stabilizer muscles if you have an awkward or uncontrolled movement on a trampoline. As mentioned above, stabilizers engage before movement to protect the spine. If a movement occurs unexpectedly, your body doesn’t have time to prepare; the stabilizers will tense up suddenly in a last-second attempt to protect the spine. This sudden tensing can cause muscle strain.
Trampolining is generally viewed as a leisure activity, but it is also exercise. As such, it is important to warm up with dynamic stretches prior to jumping and to cool down with static stretches after jumping. It is a good idea to develop core strength before spending prolonged periods of time on a trampoline; stronger muscles suffer less strain.
It is also possible for a more severe injury to the spine to occur. This is mostly a concern if you fell off the trampoline, hit the side of it or already have a degenerative spinal issue.
If you fall off a trampoline, you may incur a dislocation of a spinal joint (subluxation) or a vertebral fracture. These may occur in spinal segments from the lower back to the neck, though subluxation is less common in the thoracic spine. Symptoms of subluxation are pain, tenderness and soreness surrounding the affected segment, muscles spasms, stiffness and weakness in the surrounding area, reduced spinal mobility and/or pain, weakness or numbness in the extremities. Vertebral fracture causes sudden and severe pain that is worsened by standing, walking, bending and twisting. If you or your child experiences any of these symptoms after an awkward landing or fall on the trampoline, seek examination by a medical professional.
The jarring associated with jumping on a trampoline can exacerbate preexisting disc degeneration. Discs work to absorb shock between vertebrae; when a disc is worn, bulging or herniated, it fails to cushion the bones around it. Herniated or bulging discs may compress nerves as they exit the spine, causing pain, numbness and weakness along the nerve pathway into an arm or leg. Jumping on a trampoline can cause asymptomatic disc abnormalities to become symptomatic or can make already-present symptoms worse. Though disc wear can occur in younger people, it is more of a concern for people over 30.
The above injuries are not the only concerns associated with trampolining. Statistics of severe injuries, mostly incurred by children, have spurred the American Academy of Pediatrics to call for a ban on trampolines for backyard use. For a list of statistics and other injury types, see http://physical-therapy.advanceweb.com/Article/Bouncing-Back-Treating-Trampoline-Injuries.aspx.
If you choose to assume the risks of trampolining, make sure any children using the trampoline are supervised and following basic safety guidelines provided at http://www.livestrong.com/article/134355-trampoline-safety-rules/.