In this article, we will address how golfers can overcome back injuries such as muscles strains as well as disc injuries, bulges, protrusions, etc. We are dealing with minor back injuries on the golf course, although, minor back injuries can progress to major back injuries if not treated correctly.
Most back injuries are sprains and strains that usually feel better in 2-3 weeks with no lasting effects. However, with increasing age, injuries tend to be more of an issue. The most common golf injuries include:
Muscle Strains: These typically occur when the golfer over swings, does not warm up adequately, or due to poor swing mechanics.
Disc Injuries: Although too often blamed, spinal disc injuries are common. Disc injuries are usually the final event that occurs after years of trauma due to many issues such as: poor posture, poor lifting mechanics, being overweight, etc.
Before we delve into these two issues, it is important that you understand the “Red Flag” symptoms concerning the spine. If you have any of these symptoms, you need to see your physician pronto!
1. Sudden and unexplained or unexpected weight loss.
2. Night pain that is not relieved by getting out of bed and walking around.
3. Constant, unvarying pain that persists beyond 3 weeks.
4. Any changes in bowel or bladder function.
5. Numbness or tingling in the “saddle” area.
6. Changes in leg strength of both legs at the same time.
A muscle strain is a tear in the muscle. Muscle strains are very common in golfers and how much time you may miss is a factor of how severe the tear is.
The key to overcoming a muscle strain is: Active Rest. Active rest includes resting from the activity that caused the strain but not resting by sitting on the couch. After you sustain a muscle strain, the body begins its immune response sending all sorts of chemicals and cells into the area to fight off any infection. Ice and anti-inflammatory medications work well in this stage to mute the immune response and inflammation.
Then the body begins the repair stage, building new fibers to repair the injury. However, there is no order to how the body lays down new fibers. As a result, if you sit idly on the couch, your new fibers will lay down randomly: like dropping dry spaghetti on the floor. This new formation is called scar tissue.
Recovering from a Muscle Strain
The key to preventing new scar tissue from forming is light, continuous motion. Such activities would include riding a bike, walking, light weight lifting, etc. This motion lightly pulls and tugs at the new tissue being formed and causes it to form in line with the muscle. As a result, instead of random scar tissue, functional tissue is formed.
Signs of a Disc Problem
There have been recent studies that have shown that most adults WITHOUT back pain have disc protrusions, or disc bulges, as shown by MRI testing. In my practice, I often see patients with back pain who are referred to me for treatment with the diagnosis of a disc bulge.
However, I rarely find that the patient’s disc bulge is actually the cause of the patient’s low back pain!
Even worse, I see too many patients referred to me for treatment after a back surgery for a disc bulge that has NOT resolved the patient’s pain. As a result, the patient continues to have his/her original symptoms, but now has to deal with a difficult and painful rehabilitation from surgery.
But disc injuries do happen.
The flexion-extension test
From a standing position, bend forward reaching forward to your toes. Do not hold
this position, but repeat it 12 times. If this position causes pain but does not get worse with each repetition, a disc bulge is unlikely. However, if symptoms get worse with each repetition, and especially if you experience radiating symptoms into your buttocks or down your leg, you may likely have a symptomatic disc bulge.
Next, bend backwards from a standing position. Again, do not hold this position, but repeat it 12 times. If you have a symptomatic disc bulge, this motion should reduce your symptoms and reduce any radiating symptoms.
If these tests indicate that you may have a disc bulge, see your physician. You can also try McKenzie’s treatment:
From a standing position, place both hands on hips. Slowly bend backwards. Do not hold the position but repeat 12 times. Perform 10 times throughout the day and whenever you experience back pain.
**A condition called a disc herniation may be present if you experience radiating symptoms below your knee. If this occurs, see your physician for an evaluation.
If you have any back related questions, please email me directly at [email protected]
Thanks for Reading!
Dr Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Specialist
Age Defying Golf