by Richard Hollis
It’s tennis season and at this time of year we seeing more low back problems from tennis. Low back pain is common among tennis players and general there are two types of back injury, a sudden “injury” or gradual onset of stiffness and pain, usually increasing the more time that is spent playing.
The first type of injury often occurs when overreaching or stretching, particularly when the muscles are fatigued.
The second type is usually accumulative and is typically from a combination of recurring impact from pounding around the court, particularly the less forgiving hard courts. The other common accumulative low back problem is from extending (arching backwards) when serving. Extending the low back repeatedly “impacts” the joints of the lower spine together and can lead to inflammation and pain.
After a sudden overstretch or strain injury to the lower back, rest, anti-inflammatories and ice are recommended to relieve pain and muscle spasm. In the event of severe pain, or if the pain is accompanied by other symptoms, such as shooting pain in the leg extending as far as the foot, a tingling sensation, numbness or loss of strength, consult a health professional. They can give you advice and assess if further investigations are needed and what treatment and exercises will best help.
In the case of an accumulative impact injury to the lower back the cause should be considered. If it is from running around on an unforgiving hard court then footwear needs to be assessed. Often tennis shoes can be improved by an off the shelf foot bed which can be put in your shoes and help absorb impact. If your serve is causing some of your symptoms it’s likely that technique is at fault. Overextending the low back is a common fault in tennis players and this is something that can be remedied with the help of a coach. The power for your serve should be coming from your legs rather than your back and remedying this will not only decrease your pain but improve your serve!
Work to strengthen your core and abdominal muscles. These stabilise your spine and reduce stress on the joints and discs of the lower back. Do a thorough warming-up before and cooling down after the training or match take at least 10 minutes for each. Concentrate on performing these exercises correctly.
Before and after playing tennis don’t forget to stretch not just your spine but also your quads, gluts and hamstrings.