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Study Examines Role of Abs in Golfers' Back Pain

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Muscles on the side of the abdomen called the obliques may play a role in low back pain in golfers, according to a new report.

To investigate whether abdominal muscle activity or weakness is linked to low back pain in golfers, Dr. Brian R. MacIntosh and colleagues from the University of Calgary in Canada monitored the activation of these muscles in 25 professional and amateur male golfers.

‘We know that weak abdominal muscles can contribute to low back pain in the general population,’ Macintosh told Reuters Health in an interview. ‘We also know that abdominal muscles act as important stabilisers and that they are very active during a golf swing.’
In the study, 17 of the players experienced chronic low back pain. The rest were pain-free.

The researchers attached electrodes to the golfers' midsections and used a technique called electromyography (EMG) to measure the activation of abdominal muscle. The golfers were instructed to drive golf balls into a net at the rate of one every 30 seconds for 50 minutes using various golf clubs.

‘The people who were not suffering any low back pain tended to activate their external and internal oblique muscles earlier during the back swing portion of their golf swing compared to those who were suffering low back pain,’ MacIntosh said.

During a golf swing, the player swings the golf club back behind his or her head before swinging forward to hit the ball. ‘Most other patterns and magnitudes of the swing were similar,’ he added.

Despite this finding, MacIntosh said it was difficult to draw any conclusions on the relationship of abdominal muscles to low back pain. It is unclear whether or not the difference noted in the swing is a result of having low back pain or the source of the pain, he explained.

‘All we know is that these two groups differ in the mechanics of their golf swing and more studies will have to be conducted to identify the nature of the differences,’ he added.

Nonetheless, MacIntosh said that good coaching and technique are imperative to keep injuries at a minimum.
‘Don't keep pushing yourself when it hurts,’ he said.
He also points out that for golfers with low back pain, their pain tended to become worse during the 50-minute practice session, indicating that laying off the clubs and allowing time to heal may help alleviate the pain.

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