Your back can take a beating during nine holes of golf.
Figure 80 strokes, double that many practice swings preparing for each stroke, and another couple of dozen on the driving range for warm-up. Don't forget bending over to place the ball on the tee and yet again to retrieve it from the cup.
The result can be repetitive strain injury to your back muscles, the most common golf injury.
"It usually occurs because of tightness in the hips or shoulders. People compensate, they over-rotate and try and generate too much force," says Brandon Tilton, a physical therapist at Jackson County Physical Therapy in Medford.
Before you try to hit that first killer drive, warm up by walking and take light swings on the driving range.
"A lot of people will go out to the driving range and hit a couple of balls, then pull out their driver and hit it as hard as they can. They're just setting themselves up for injury," Tilton says.
Form is critical both for the swing and for something as seemingly trivial as how you pick up the ball.
When reaching for the ball, says Tilton, "Use the golfer's reach: kicking a leg out behind you and using your golf club to support yourself. That takes a lot of stress and strain off the low back. (This) allows you to keep a more neutral spine, a straighter back, rather than having a flexed spine."
Keeping the back straight is the key to a successful, safe swing. This form should be carried over to other parts of life, as well.
"The main thing is sitting on a chair with proper back support. Slumping in a chair or desk puts the same sort of stress on the back (as an incorrect golf swing)," Tilton adds.
When injury strikes, Tilton uses ice to decrease inflammation. Education is critical, Tilton says, in learning form for that first post-injury game. To reinforce proper form, he heads for the office supply closet.