Understanding Your Back

What Makes a Healthy Back?
Your back is your body’s main support.  Along with your muscles and joints it allows you to move and carry weight.  But your back is also a delicate, finely balanced structure that can be easily injured if not cared for properly.  Knowing the basics of back care can make the difference between a healthy back and an aching one.

The Parts of Your Backback1
Your backbone (or spinal column) is composed of 24 move-able bones called vertebrae.  Separating the vertebrae are cushion-like pads, called discs, that absorb shock.  Ligaments and muscles support these vertebrae and discs and keep your back properly aligned in three balanced curves.  When any of these various parts becomes diseased, injured or weakened, back problems and pain are almost certain to follow.

A Question of Balance
A healthy back is a balanced back when your cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back) and lumbar (lower back) curves are properly aligned.  You know your back is aligned properly when your ears, shoulders and hips are “stacked” in a straight line.  Flexible “elastic” discs and well conditioned muscles also help protect and align healthy backs.

When Your Back Aches
Understanding how your back works and what can go wrong is the key to taking good care of it.  Certain medical conditions can cause back pain. But most backaches come from poor posture and weak supporting muscles.back

Poor posture puts too much strain on your spinal column and over time can lead to sudden or chronic back pain.  Weak muscles, since they aren’t strong enough to support the spinal column, can contribute to poor posture and back injuries.  By using good posture when you sit, stand, lift, recline and move, and by keeping off excess weight and exercising the muscles that support your back, you can help prevent the most common causes of backaches.


Golf: Hit Farther, Straighter, and Play Longer

In golf, when people utter these words, everyone listens.  Is it the shoes?  What driver are they using?  What golf guru did they visit, video did they buy or book did they read?  Americans are obsessed with golf, and on average spend thousands of dollars each year to find ways to play better. Don’t get me wrong; having the best knowledge of the game, instructor to guide you and the right equipment in your bag is important when it comes to golf.  However, one very important part of the game that most people overlook is the body’s ability to perform the correct motions required to hit a golf ball successfully and without injury.

We’ve heard this from the pros when asked, “What does it feel like to hit the perfect golf shot?”  Their answer, much to our surprise is, “Effortless.”  How can this be?  Of course we know that we are not supposed to grip it and rip it, so why do we?  Especially when afterwards there is that sudden twinge of pain in the lower back. that tells you something you did was not in your golf game’s best interest.  What do they know that we don’t?  I contend that whether professional golfers know it or not, that they are biomechanical geniuses when it comes to a functional golf swing.

What is the most common injury in golfers?  It may not surprise that lower back pain is the answer, both in amateurs and professionals.  Most golfers already know this.  They will show you this intimate knowledge prior to the round when the they dig in their golf bag for Tylenol, Motrin or some other form of self-medication to ensure that their lower back doesn’t get the best of their game.  Instead of asking what type of equipment is needed to play golf better, the question should be, “What should I take care of personally that is required for an effortless golf swing?”

Lower back pain in golfers is primarily derived from the rotation of the lumbar spine at the top of the backswing followed by a rigorous de-rotation of the spine through the downswing and hyperextension in the follow through.  The golf swing itself generates compression loads of more than eight times (8X’s) the body weight (1339 lbs to 1674 lbs).  Shear forces occur in a variety of sports where there is load with movement being placed on the spine.  For example rowing generates 189lbs of peak shear forces, and doing squat exercises with weight lifting generates 154 lbs of peak shear forces.  What about golf?  Obviously there is the twisting of the spine and the interaction of the musculature that is involved during the swing.  Golf peak shear forces found in amateurs equaled about 125 lbs compared to those found in professional golfers of 73 lbs.  Amateur golfers on average generate 80% greater peak lateral bending, or sideways movement, and shear loads than the pros.

This difference exemplifies the lack of knowledge about the golf swing.