Dear doctor, I had a skiing accident over the holidays. Will I be able to ski again?

27 February 2018

Q: I had a skiing accident over the holidays and my GP thinks I might have a slipped disc. I’m really worried. Will I be able to ski again?

A: A slipped disc can be very painful, but most people will get better by themselves with the right pain relief and physiotherapy. I would recommend anti-inflammatory pain killers in the first instance, such as ibuprofen, to settle the pain when it flares up.

You can support your back by working on strengthening the muscles in your back and stomach, what we call your core stability. Try to be aware of factors that trigger your pain and avoid them as much as possible.

If the symptoms persist for more than a few weeks after your accident, we need to investigate further to find out exactly what is going on. GPs and physiotherapists should look out for what we call red flags, and if they think there is anything to worry about they should refer you to a back specialist for further tests and treatment.

The treatment involved would usually include physiotherapy, pain relief, injection therapy of local anaesthetics and steroids to settle the pain. We try to avoid surgery, and only a few people will need an operation.

If you were to require surgery, the procedure is called a lumbar discectomy. It is a relatively small procedure under a general anaesthetic, where we move the nerve out of the way and take away the part of the disc that is pressing on the nerve. That should then resolve the pain.

As for whether you can return to skiing, it depends on your symptoms and what is causing your back pain. I have had several patients both with and without surgical intervention who went back to skiing, so it’s certainly possible that you can return to the slopes.

Mr Jason Harvey is a Consultant Spinal Surgeon practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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