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The Ultimate Back Pain Relief Tips Blog

Back Pain - The Two Most Important Principles to Tiger Woods Back Pain!

Posted by Dr. Jeff Winternheimer D.C. on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 @ 12:52 PM

tiger woods back painI have spent twenty years pondering the “why” of back pain.  Without the “why” it’s very hard to treat the pain and it’s also very hard to get better.  I am an avid golfer and have treated golfers at every level; professionals, amateurs and even the beginners.   I know golf and can link it to the “why”. So here goes, it’s not complicated but it requires your attention. 
  • The fundamental principle is what we call the chain reaction.
  • The secondary principle has to do with functional movement which occurs during the golf swing.

The first principle for Tiger is the effect of changes in the chain reaction.  What does that mean? Movement of the body is the result of chain reactions; specific movement will cause other reactions both up the chain and down the chain.  It’s like the old saying “the foot bone is connected to the leg bone, and the leg bone is connected to the knee bone.”  The sport of golf entails explosive movements of the golf swing and we need all our muscle doing what they should be doing at the right time and if not the result is a breakdown in the chain reaction.

To truly understand this concept I am going to walk you through the most important chain reaction which it occurs when you walk.  When the chain is working properly you muscles work at their highest potential and everything is stable and you typically have no issues.

Principle #1 -The Chain Reaction.

When you are walking as the foot hits the ground the reaction is to have the arch of the foot collapse slightly, this allows the ankle to internally rotate, and the knee to internally rotate, which will cause the hip to internally rotate and flex.  The last step of the chain reaction is the most important because when the hip is internally rotated and flexed you have turned on or activated the largest most powerful muscle of the body the glutes. For the sake of understanding this is also one of the most important muscles for the golf swing. Therefore to have a healthy chain reaction all those steps need to take place exactly as it is explained above. The key to injury is when these things don’t happen as well as they should.

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This is where we see problems for Tiger.

When a chain reaction is not functioning properly the result is power loss in the chain. If the chain has a weak link the loss of power will ultimately cause other parts to take over for the weaknesses. The most important part of this whole concept is to know what will cause changes to the kinetic chain. Typically the chain will become dysfunctional as the result of injuries and/or lifestyle activities. So for Tiger it’s absolutely his old injuries that are effecting him currently.

I made the same statement about Derek Rose on ESPN radio right before he completely blew out his ACL (from jumping?)! Athletes need their chain reaction functioning properly and when they don’t they are prone to injury.

Faulty chain reactions!

If you have one injury you are prone to have changes in the chain, and remember when the chain reaction changes the entire chain become weaker. It’s much like have a V8 engine and having only 4 of the cylinders working, you will think you have the power but eventually the engine will breakdown. With tiger if we review his injuries he has had 8 major injuries to his kinetic chain. In 2002 he had fluid removed from his chain (the ACL on his knee). 2007 ruptured his ACL (major component of his chain). April 2008 surgery to his left knee, June 2008 the one legged win in the U.S. open (this resulted in major surgery).  Then in April 2011 tiger injuries his left knee “going for the Shot”!

ACL and Achilles injuries?

The continued stress and breakdown in both his Achilles and his ACL will lead to weakness within the chain. The end result is a decrease in his ability to activate his glutes (The most important muscle for both the golf swing and back stability). What we see 100% of the time in our back pain patients a weakness in the glutes and dysfunction in the chain reactions.

Principle #2- Functional movement that occurs during the golf swing.

Knowing that the kinetic chain can breakdown and become weaker, this next section now is where we tie it all together. 

The golf swing!

To hit the ball well and hard you need to create a big coil around your center.  We know that the shoulder turn is where we get the coil from. The coil needs to be through the center of the body, from the shoulder to the feet. The power comes from the big muscles of the hips, core and shoulders. The glutes have a big role in this activity, and when the glutes are stiff, tight or weak then the rotation will be assisted by the back. This is where the back pain comes in.  If the back is doing more of the work the result is always back pain.

Golf causes Back Pain?

In the general population, 30% will have back pain right now, but 50% of all golfers have back pain.  It’s not that people with back pain like golf, it’s that golf can cause back pain.  If your kinetic chain has a weakness, the end result for golfers is back pain.  Its 100% because the rotation necessary to hit the ball will cause an increase in rotation in the low back if the chain reaction is in any way compromised. This is why Tiger has back pain. So knowing all this the treatment should be to Tiger’s back and Tiger’s chain reaction.

If you treat the back and not the chain then typically the pain will come back you need to treat both.  I will talk more in later blogs about how the chain will affect your swing, sometimes your bad shots are your chain not your swing.

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Topics: exercises for back pain, Back Pain, Sports, Tiger Wood back pain, Golf Back Injuries, Golf Causing Back Pain, Relief for Back Pain