Badminton has been quite good on my body. I’m losing weight without trying, it has given me a lot more energy and endurance and I’ve just noticed my total fitness level has increased.
But there is one problem: my lower back.
It began to hurt after badminton class and practice. The next morning I would do the “old person” groan as I get out of bed, and I would kinda touch my lower back and stand in a weird bent position for a minute until I sufficiently moved enough to loosen everything up. Also, every time I went from sitting to standing, it would hurt and I would walk awkwardly for a minute.
Then one day I got a foot massage and they always start with a short neck and back massage. I was incredibly tight and it upset the masseuse, who literally took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves to attack my back. He loosened it up quite a bit but the next day my lower back hurt like crazy. I thought he maybe manipulated a bit too much. Luckily I got the massage on a Friday and by the time I played badminton again on Tuesday it felt better.
In fact, besides this massage, it was clearly badminton that was hurting it. If I went about my business for a day or two it would feel better, but after badminton it hurt a lot. And it wasn’t getting better.
Then I went and got a fancy massage and on the bus ride home, my lower back hurt again. And at badminton my pain was getting worse (starting quicker and lasting several days) and with a trip to Hong Kong on the horizon I decided to see a sports chiropractor there (I’m not even sure chiropractors are a thing on mainland China).
Partially due to genetics (large tata’s) and partially due to modern lifestyle (typical phone/computer usage) I have a hunchy back. I thought for sure he was gonna pinpoint that immediately. But after he had me to some stretches and moves, he actually said my upper back was pretty flexible and doing good.
Then he felt the muscles on my lower back and told me that I didn’t have any “tension” there.
“Isn’t that a good thing?” I asked. A tense back is usually a bad thing.
“Not for you. You’re missing it. Do you ever get massages?”
“Yeah,” I said. I hadn’t told him about the pain after a massage, just that it hurt after badminton.
“I bet massages hurt, don’t they?”
“Yeah!” I said kinda excited he figured that out. “But I thought painful massages are good for you.”
“Not for you. When you get massages from now on tell them to be very gentle with your lower back or it will just make it worse.” Can do, Doc.
Then he had me do some yoga poses, specifically cat and cow, and he noticed another problem immediately.
“Your lower back isn’t moving at all. Your upper back is doing all the work.” he put his finger on my lower back and told me to lift his finger up and down (by doing cat and cow pose). I tried, but his finger remained unmoved.
“Move it,” he said as I was moving my upper back up and down.
“How do I do it?” I said trying to figure out which muscles I needed to flex. It’s weird, but I had no idea how to move my lower back by itself.
“It’s all in your pelvis,” he said. “When you do cow, pop out your booty out and your back will naturally curve down. When you do cat, push your hips up towards your stomach and you back will arch by itself. Don’t use your spine to move, use your pelvis.”
I tried it and I was able to move his finger which was still on my lower back.
He then had me do another yoga pose, on my hands and knees with one arm and leg outstretched and he told me he was going to push me slightly, and I needed to stay stable, using my core to keep me balanced. When he pushed me on my left side, no problem. But my right? I kept tipping over like a sleeping cow. It was just a tiny push, yet I couldn’t keep my balance without toppling over and dropping my lifted leg and arm for balance.
It was my right side, which translated to my left hip. “It’s weaker,” he said. It’s not such a huge deal, he said most people have a weaker side, but suggested I do some exercises to build up my lower back on both sides.
He also told me, when I am picking up the birdie from the floor, to do a “golfers lift.” Don’t bend the knees or the back, but rather kick out the opposite leg as you bend at the waist so your back remains straight.
He gave me a series of exercises to do daily and I started them as soon as I got back. And they work! They totally work! My back hurts a little if I pick up the birdie a lot from the ground, but even then it is always fine on the bus ride back.
There is an added bonus that working on your lower back works your core, and your core is the key muscles for badminton. You don’t need large biceps or calves, but you do need strong core muscles, something I don’t have. And seeing as I’m naturally lazy, getting a double benefit from the same exercise is just gravy.
I like that badminton is giving me an excuse to address some issues I have. If it was just me would I go to the chiropractor and get my back checked out? No, but I had wanted to and badminton gives me a good excuse to take some time to do it. And I’m helping myself for more than just sports.