While tennis elbow and wrist problems are common sports injuries associated with tennis, the sport can also create or worsen lower back injuries.

How Tennis Causes Back Pain

  • Front- and back-hand shots require a large amount of trunk rotation and twisting in the spine when playing tennis
  • The tennis serve hyper-extends the lower back and can compress lumbar discs. This hyperextension of the lower back can stress the small joints in the spine, lumbar discs, as well as the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around the spine
  • Back muscles must support continual sudden forward and lateral movements and start-and-stop motions during a game of tennis

Preventing Back Pain from Tennis

  • Learn about different racket tensions and be fitted by a professional for the appropriate tennis equipment; a more flexible tennis racquet requires more trunk rotation than a stiffer tennis racquet with less tension in the strings. Racquets must also be properly sized by hand size to reduce stress on the elbow which in turn may alter the biomechanics of the swing and ultimately result in back pain.
  • Consider using a slice serve rather than a kick serve to reduce the degree of back arch
  • Use proper form during tennis, bending the knees, holding in the abdominal muscles
  • Have a tennis professional check that proper form is being used
  • For new players, professional tennis instructors can teach proper form and make suggestions on how to avoid back injuries, back pain, or stress on the back

As in all sports, strong core body muscles are essential. A program designed to increase core muscle strength can help minimize or prevent lower back injury from tennis.

Dr. Thomas Hyde is a chiropractor who retired with more than 30 years of experience treating spine pain and soft tissue disorders in athletes and active patients.