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|Even the prettiest pro golf swing can do ugly things to the lower back. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)|
Most golfers experience back pain at some point during their career. Myrtle Beach Chiropractor Chris Garner has treated his share of golfers and offers his advice on how to save your back.
Even the top golf touring professionals with the prettiest, most fluid swings the human form can generate are susceptible to back problems.
For the rest of us duffers - with our abnormal twisting, awkward balance, spine angle - the prospect of a harmonious spine and a regular golf habit is practically impossible.
Dr. Chris Garner, chiropractor at Grand Strand Health and Wellness (www.GrandStrandChiropractic.com or tel. 843-357-WELL) in Myrtle Beach, sees plenty of golfers come in each year. One startling statistic he has come across in his research among golfers is this: 77 percent of pro golfers experience back pain at some point, according to a recent survey.
"Our bodies are meant for pure motion," said Garner, referring to the motion of forward-to-back, side-to-side and twisting. Combining any of these motions creates "shear force" on the 26 vertebrae in your spine, which can lead to problems, and the golf swing is practically impossible without creating this force.
"Whenever you put sheer force on a disk that combines two or more motions, it basically shreds your disk."
Try and visualize that the next time you rear back for a little extra on your drive.
And while pro golfers do their best to create a repeatable, healthy swing they can perform hundreds of times a day, the amateur player stands to encounter more problems, even if they're not banging as many range balls.
"If these (PGA Tour) players possess great swing mechanics and posture and still suffer from pain, look at the average player with less than good mechanics," noted Garner.
"They're going to be prone to higher risk."
It all boils down to a simple fact: The human body just isn't made to hit a golf ball properly. But for most golfers, that's probably not enough to keep you off the golf course.
For those with a back healthy enough for golf, Garner offers a lot of preventive care suggestions to his patients. He starts by providing a list of 10 stretches that cater to the stresses of the golf swing (you can find a complete list of "peak energy" stretches on the GrandStrandChiropractic.com Web site).
And while he won't be giving you any specific swing tips himself, he recommends getting your swing looked at by a professional who can help tune your swing to put less stress on your spine. One of Garner's favorite teachers he commonly refers patients to is Jim Fellner, director of golf at the Long Bay Club in the Myrtle Beach area.
"If a golfer can have solid mechanics, good posture, our shoulders at the right height, you'll be a lot less susceptible to injury," said Garner.
And before you give too much attention to your back, look to your feet. Garner said by investing in a pair of foot stabilizers, which can be fitted at a doctor's office by analyzing where the weight is in your feet during the swing, you can not only prevent back pain, but add 3-5 m.p.h. to your swing speed, which may result in up to 10 extra yards off the tee.
Another specialty the Grand Strand Health and Wellness has introduced with great success is the ProAdjuster, which is a NASA-inspired computer that measures a spine's precise levels of motion. Once you've been analyzed, treatment is then delivered by the doctor based on analysis results, and gentle treatment is applied to the discovered problem areas.
Other options for treatment include the use of ultrasound, traction, cables, hydro-therapies and massage. Disc compression therapy is another method that has an 82 percent success rate of curing problems.
Back pain may be a threat as long as players are on the links, but care and prevention methods continue to get more advanced - all in the name of being able to whack that little white ball.
February 3, 2009
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.
As kids around the country head back to school, you, too, can continue your education—on the golf course. Before you play your next round, follow some of these helpful video tips from Golf Channel Academy.
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