BY DAVE DONELSON
Does your backswing feel more like a back spasm? If it’s any consolation, your golf swing probably isn’t the root cause of the pain, according to Dr. John Abrahams, Co-Director of the Spine surgery Section at Northern Westchester Hospital. “It’s not really the golf,” he says, “it’s just that people happen to be playing at a time when their back hurts.”
That was one of the helpful concepts explained during the Northern Westchester Hospital FORE Your Health: Injury Prevention and Treatment for Golfers program at Athlete's Warehouse in Pleasantville in April. In addition to a presentation by Abrahams, golfers heard from a range of experts including Dr. Eric Grossman, Director of Joint Replacement Surgery, Laura Leibesman and Gerald Loehr, physical therapists, and Nicholas Serio and Cassie Reilly-Boccia, TPI-certified trainers.
But what about that back pain? Does that mean it’s imaginary? Of course not, but golfers don’t suffer more back problems than non-golfers. “General back pain is caused by muscles trying to protect your joints,” Abrahams explains. Among other root causes, poorly toned muscles can’t provide that protection during a golf swing, ergo you hurt. Spinal disc problems, poor posture, genetic conditions, and age-related arthritis afflict everyone, but golfers repetitively force our bodies into pretzel shapes that aggravate them.
Avoiding pain on the golf course isn’t hard, but it requires some preparation. “Warming up is essential,” according to NWH physical therapist Gerald Loehr. “It may sound weird, but a quick trot around the parking lot before you play will get the blood flowing and activate your muscles. Then do some rotational movements that emulate the golf swing and create dynamic tension around your joints.”
Dr. Eric Grossman, who specializes in hip and knee surgery, points out another important factor: “The weight you carry in your load-bearing joints, your hips, knees, and ankles, is important. The lighter you are, the less strain you put on your joints.” He adds, “Pain is your guide. If you feel something and it’s recurring, step away for a bit.”
“Listen to your body,” agrees Dr. Victor Khabie, Chairman of the Department of Surgical Services at NWH. “Some people just want to go, go, go, but a little bit of rest will help you avoid injury.” How do you know when to head for the doctor and when to just take it easy with a couple of non-prescription pain relievers? “If the pain just doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks, it’s time for a doctor visit to find out what’s going on.” Obviously, sharply excruciating pain calls for immediate medical attention.
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