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3 Reasons Skiing May Lead to Back Pain

Winters are cold in upstate New York. Without a winter hobby, they can also be terribly long. While skiing is a popular winter sport, some find that they have more back pain after skiing. Why? Back pain from skiing is often considered an overuse injury.

What’s an Overuse Injury?

An overuse injury is an injury caused by repetitive actions or motions. Have you heard of tennis elbow? What about carpal tunnel syndrome? Both of these are injuries related to performing the same motion or action repeatedly.

A back overuse injury is similar but specific to the back. Injuries to the back related to overuse can vary in severity and can result in back pain or spasms.

back pain after skiing

3 Back Overuse Risks Associated with Skiing

A recent article1 outlined research associated with back overuse injuries in alpine race skiing. While most of us probably wouldn’t call ourselves alpine ski racers, the information in the article is probably still applicable. So, let’s take a look at three mechanisms which contribute to overuse injuries from skiing.

Skiing Posture

We’ve discussed it in other articles, posture can have a huge impact on our spine.  (Read about out how technology is impacting our posture and contributing to spinal pain in our article on text neck syndrome.)  The posture associated with skiing is no different. Skiers frequently bend forward, to the sides and twist their bodies. This combined bending and twisting leads to stress on the discs of the spine and can contribute to back overuse injuries.

Minimizing the degree to which you’re bending and twisting as you ski can help reduce the load on your spine.

Ground Reaction Forces

Ground reaction…what? Ground reaction forces are essentially the forces exerted on your body by the ground. To illustrate this force, think of what happens when you jump off a chair. Gravity pulls you toward the ground. But, then you get to the ground and stop. It’s almost as if the ground is pushing back. That “pushing back” by the ground is absorbed by your body when you land. The energy that’s absorbed in your joints and spinal column, comes from ground reaction forces.

When you ski, your body is exposed to many different forces. The forces against your body from the ground, gravity, acceleration, your twisting, turning, etc. Studies have shown that these forces are much higher than the forces our body typically sees when we’re not skiing. These stresses on our body can be particularly damaging to our spine. Exposing our spine to these forces over and over again is another way skiing can lead to overuse injuries of the back.

Vibrations on the Body from Skiing

The constant jarring your body feels as you ski can also contribute to back pain after skiing. These “whole body vibrations” have been measured and analyzed on high level alpine ski racers as they perform different skiing techniques. Studies show that, as compared to straight running or snow-plough swinging, short swinging (skidding) and carved turns result in significantly higher whole body vibrations.

Skiing straight down the hill or snow-ploughing may not be your ideal way of enjoying your day on the slopes. But, both of these methods will cause less potentially damaging vibrations to your spine than if you perform a lot of skid turns or carved turns during your runs.

While it may not be easy to minimize your twisting or reduce the jarring on your body while skiing there are ways to help back overuse injuries associated with skiing. Reducing the number of runs down the mountain, varying your style of skiing and giving yourself breaks between days of skiing are a few ways to help if you suffer from back pain from skiing.



  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6317437/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26109612/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29593563



*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery