It can happen to any golfer…
It can happen to any golfer… The back swing you’ve so diligently practiced suddenly betrays you as you take a shot, stoop to retrieve a ball, or open the boot of your car… And suddenly you’re one of the 80% of people who experiences lower back pain in their lives! But what can you do to reduce the chances of it happening?
Well, first it’s imperative to understand that there are many causes of back trouble. It’s easy to blame golf, but any number of medical conditions can affect your spine, from arthritis and tuberculosis to problems with internal organs and the ridiculous sounding inflammatory disease, ‘Ankylosing Spondylitis’!
So always seek help for back pain, and immediately consult your doctor if that pain coincides with digestive problems, difficulty passing water or, in women, gynecological problems. All being well, though, you can help protect your back by paying attention to just three essential things: Core Strength, Stretching and Posture…
As you may know, the muscles of the torso are collectively called ‘The Core’. The Core stabilises your spine and provides a solid foundation for the rest of your body’s movement; it’s essential for effective sport performance and injury prevention. Unfortunately, it’s quite common for people to have weakness and muscle imbalances in this area.
Worse yet, when you hit a golf ball, a force equivalent to as much as eight times your body weight suddenly courses through your spine! Also, you simultaneously experience shearing, bending, twisting and compression forces; you only briefly have to imagine the damage this could do to understand why exercises targeting the abdominal, low-back and gluteus muscles are absolutely essential for golfers. In particular, Pilates is highly effective – we’ll be writing more on this soon.
Meanwhile, the second of our ‘absolute musts’ for functional health is effective stretching, which:
- Promotes body awareness
- Increases mental and physical relaxation
- Cuts the risk of joint and muscle strain
- Reduces muscle soreness and tension
- Optimizes the learning, practice and performance of many skill based movements – including golf techniques.
Of course, there are hundreds of ways to stretch, but it’s important to find stretches that are safe and effective for you personally… Feel free to drop into the Back in Shape clinic to get advice on what will work! Generally speaking, it helps if – before practicing or playing your actual golf swing – you loosen up with a couple of easy swings: you might be surprised at the difference this makes, as does spending just 5-10 minutes’ static stretching before and after playing, let alone every day!
“Posture is important…” – you’ve heard it a hundred times before! But what does it actually mean?! People usually use the word ‘posture’ in reference to the position of the body when sitting or standing still. It’s a bit of a wooly term, though, because – long-suffering guards at Buckingham Palace aside – people are rarely motionless! So when we say “good posture”, we really mean a ‘neutral posture’: one that allows the spine to follow its three natural curves, and one in which every spinal joint is held in an optimal position. This lets your whole body function at its strongest and most balanced, moving as an integrated whole rather than a collection of parts! So consciously making the effort to achieve a good neutral posture is a critical step… Here’s a 30 second exercise that helps while standing:
Stand upright with your feet slightly apart and your relaxed arms hanging loosely by your sides… Keep your chin up so that, if you had a string running from the top of your head, right through your body to the ground, it would pass:
- Through the middle of your shoulder joint
- Just behind the middle of your hip bone
- In front of the middle of the knees and ankle joints
That’s pretty much how your body’s designed to stand! We rarely stand this way, though, and –
unfortunately – poor posture can lead to herniated discs, sciatica, degenerative disc diseases and pinched nerves among other problems! And worse news is to come…
Good Posture while sitting:
It’s fair to say most people have a poor standing posture and just as fair to say that most people’s sitting posture is even worse! Start improving yours by:
- Avoiding slouching
- Distributing your weight evenly
- Correctly positioning your legs and feet
- Choosing the right chair
- Taking regular breaks
We realize there’s quite a lot of information here! To fully benefit from this article, though, check out our free ‘Aerocise’ and ‘Officise’ Info Sheets… These simple stretches are great if you want to improve your posture gradually. Email firstname.lastname@example.org – we’ll send you a link AND a chance to win the book ‘The Golfer’s Guide to Pilates’.