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Fitness Friday: Decompress your spine

August 02, 2013

Quick question: Are you sitting while you read this? If you are, think about your normal posture and how it relates to your spinal cord. Are your shoulders protracted? Are your glute muscles relaxed? Now think about your address posture when you play golf. Do you bend from your waist to sole the club? Does your spine feel bowed? Do you arch the bottom of your spine? If you answered yes to any or many of these questions, then you could be on your way to suffering spinal-cord compression issues.

I'm not trying to scare you, but this isn't hyperbole, either. The reason why many people get shorter as they get older is because the 24 vertebrae that make up your cervical (top), thoracic (middle) and lumbar(bottom) spine begin to collapse on one another. The cushiony material between the vertebrae, known as the intervertebral discs, get squished and worn over time and that leads to back pain and limited mobility when you swing the club (see illustration).

So what can you do about it? Well, first you can sit up straight, with your shoulders pulled back and activate your glute muscles by squeezing them together. When you play golf, make a concerted effort to bend from your hip joints and not your waist and feel as if your spine is in a neutral--not bowed or arched--position. And here's the last part. Stop doing any exercises that promote spinal compression. Those exercises include crunches and sit-ups with your hands laced behind your head. While strengthening the core muscles around your stomach is important, there are ways to do it that don't put your spine at risk. To see me demonstrate one, watch the video below.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor for Golf Digest.*

(Illustration: Getty Images) *