A bad back needn't put an end to sports. Dr. Gerald Schuster, orthopedic surgeon and director of Associated Pain Consultants, allows many of his back patients to engage in sports, but with these modifications:
Jogging -- Wear only shoes designed for jogging and reinforced with special heel supports.
"It's most important," says Dr. Schuster, "for joggers, whether or not they have back problems, not to hit the ground with their heels. That kind of repeated jarring is too much for any spine. Joggers who have back trouble should run only on smooth surfaces. Uneven, rocky routes are hazardous, too much of a risk of being thrown off balance by a stone or hole, twisting and straining an already weakened back."
Golfing -- Learn the three-quarter swing, forward and back. This modified swing, rather than handicapping some golfers, has been an asset. One of Dr. Schuster's patients lowered his score for the first time in years.
Tennis -- Maybe, but it's hardly a formula for winning at Wimbledon. "People with chronic back problems should play only on clay, not on hard-surface courts, serve the ball without arching the back, and confine their game pretty much to flat strokes with very little twisting."
Bowling -- Okay, provided the bowler uses a small ball and, after throwing it, holds his position for a few minutes, then slowly straightens up.
Swimming, brisk walking and bicycling are the sports most beneficial for bad backs. "But," cautions Dr. Schuster, "anyone who has a back problem should not engage in sports without first checking with his or her physician."
And when you stand at the bar, put one foot on the brass rail. It won't help your liver, but it'll do wonders for your back.