Quick pivots, explosive lunges, sudden squats and jabs - all part of the game of tennis - could leave one's back in less than perfect state.
What happens when you lunge forward or sideways to hit that low ball?
The body performs a miracle of balance and coordination, employing millions of nerve signals and muscle actions in a split second.
The lower back, the pivotal point, in the literal sense, bears much of the load of these rapid repetitive movements, as it is the axis which supports the upper body, with all its bending and twisting. Unprotected by the ribcage, the lower vertebra are much more susceptible to muscle pulls and chronic tension.
As strong as your lower back muscles may be, for many people the lower back is still the weakest link.
Weak muscle fibers get injured first and immediately stiffen/tighten to protect further damage. That is why your back feels so stiff after an injury, or even after playing for too long. Unfortunately, most people will try to stretch that tension, which is the worst thing they can do.
What to do when injury happens?
1. Rest for 48 hours if it's acute (muscle tear). Keep your back in neutral. Whatever you do, DO NOT stretch the injury. It's the most common mistake people make. A muscle pull is a pull/tear, stretching will only make it tear more.
2. Get a massage to address the chronically contracted fibers. Releasing surrounding tissues will speed up recovery.
3. Strengthen the back muscles - Yes! Strengthening gently the weak tight-feeling injured muscles will promote faster healing.
Below are two simple exercises to strengthen the back. Start with 2 sets of Cobra, hold each set for 30 seconds, performing the shoulder-blades pinch as demonstrated in the video.
Follow by 1 set of Prone Leg Lifts, 15 reps on each leg.