Feeling Great: Why sports people need to increase strength of their back muscles

A golf swing.
A golf swing.

If you’ve never played a round of golf, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s not much to it, and that there’s very little chance of you being injured if all you’re doing is a bit of walking and striking a few balls once in a while.

But that’s not the case. Golfers are one the most frequent sports people who visit my clinic. And if it’s not an Achilles injury, it’s usually a lower back problem.

The problem with golf is that it involves a lot of positions that the body isn’t designed to be in – and the temptation (of frustrated amateur golfers who haven’t taken lessons at least) is to want to hit the ball with too much power to make it go further.

And when you do that, combined with these awkward twisting and turning positions, you eventually stress the body too much.

Your back is designed to have some rotation in it – but just enough to allow you to lean to the side to pick something up or move out of the way of an object coming towards you, to keep yourself safe.

But not to go through the extremes of motion that is when you’re “teeing off”.

So assuming you’re not going to stop playing – and that you’ll never quite resist the urge to always want to hit the ball just that little bit harder, what can you do about it to avoid back pain?

Only one thing: increase the strength and control of the muscles around your spine.

You don’t need to bulk up – although since Tiger Woods has burst onto the scene and made it a pre-requisite to be more athletic – you really don’t have to worry about the strength of muscles, as much as you do the ‘control’ – not if you want to limit back pain!

And besides, having the ‘control’ usually means other muscles get stronger as a happy by product.

So, the muscles you need to focus on are called your ‘core’ muscle group – and they work to hold your spine in place when you get into positions that you’re not really supposed to be in – like when you swing a golf club.

So, if these muscles are all working for you, properly, it means the discs and joints in your lower spine are being held firm in their correct positions – even if you swing a bit to hard and fast.

Balance ball exercises – the kind you might see people in the gym doing (on the big blow up balls) are what you need to get doing with. That, or invest in a pilates DVD or start going to a class once or twice per week. And doing so will also give you a chance of hitting the ball further without hitting it harder.

Why? Because your core muscle group means that all of your other muscles will work more efficiently and will help no matter what sport you play.

If you’re a runner, core muscles will mean you can run further too. If you were a boxer, having the muscles around your spine working better means you would be able to hit harder. And they even focus on it in football – from an early age too – so that players can limit the chance of being injured, but maximise the power they can get from their quads and hamstrings meaning they can run faster.

It’s not all about looking as fit and lean as the top pro golfers – the Graeme Storms or Tiger Woods – no, the muscles you really need to work on if you’re aged 40-50+ playing some weekend golf are ones you’ll never see.

But you’ll know they’re working because you’ll be suffering much less backache by the time you reach the 18th hole.

These muscles even help you when you ‘sit down’ too – which is great, if the 19th hole is the one you like to get stuck on with your mates.

For more back pain tips like this, download our free quick and simple tips to help ease low-back pain at http://www.paulgoughphysio.com/back-pain