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Minimally Invasive Surgery Helps Golfers Get Back in the Swing of Things


Submitted by the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center

Back pain is the most common complaint from avid golfers. New minimally invasive procedures performed on an outpatient basis can get you back in the game faster.

It is generally agreed that a good golf swing requires excellent form, from the grip and position of your fingers, to the location and placement of your feet. At any moment during the swing — whether back swing, down swing, or upswing — you can throw off your whole body and miss the shot.

Although golf is considered a low-risk activity, it is a sport that combines almost every muscle and joint in your body. According to the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), 60 percent of professional golfers and 40 percent of amateur golfers have suffered either a traumatic or overuse injury while golfing over a two-year period.

Dr. Michael Dolphin, a board certified and fellowship-trained spine surgeon with Orthopaedic Specialists, has seen plenty of golf injuries.

“As a spine surgeon, back pain is the most common complaint or injury that I see in patients who are avid golfers,” said Dr. Dolphin. “The second most common types of injuries that orthopedic surgeons see in golfers are injuries to the elbow and shoulder.”

While many of his patients’ back injuries can be managed with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy, there are some cases that require surgery.

Dr. Dolphin is uniquely qualified to perform a minimally invasive outpatient surgery that causes less damage to tissue and dramatically speeds up recovery time. As a graduate of the fellowship program in Spine Surgery at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, MD, Dr. Dolphin learned many of the minimally invasive surgical techniques from some of the best spine surgeons in the country.

Golf injuries to the back
Back injuries can occur as a result of the quick and powerful rotation that occurs during the golf swing. Most of these injuries are simply muscle or ligament strains that usually get better in a few weeks with rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications — such as aspirin and ibuprofen — and simple strengthening exercises.

In some cases, more serious herniated disc injuries can occur. Shooting pain or tingling and numbness through the buttocks and legs are symptoms of a disc herniation of the lower spine, which can prevent golfers from using their lower body to establish a strong base for proper balance.

Minimally Invasive Treatment Options
As with most other sports-related injuries, the first course of action is to rest for several weeks. Dr. Dolphin also typically recommends anti-inflammatory medication and formal physical therapy.

“Once the pain is gone or lessened, we begin to focus on how to prevent future injuries,” said Dr. Dolphin. “This can be done with the aid of strengthening exercise programs prescribed by a physical therapist.”

Although many golf-related injuries can be treated with this approach, surgery is sometimes needed.

“When a herniated disc occurs and conservative treatments such as physical therapy or epidural pain injections do not alleviate the pain, patients may need a type of minimally invasive surgery called microdiscectomy,” said Dr. Dolphin.

Minimally invasive spine surgery uses technology to help the surgeon precisely locate the area upon which they will operate. It also uses technology to perform the surgery more efficiently.

During a microdiscectomy, Dr. Dolphin removes the herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord. By using special lighting, instruments, and vision magnification to view the disc herniation and nerve, he is able to make a smaller incision, which in turn causes less damage to the surrounding tissue and results in a faster recovery.

The result is a spine surgery that is a much less daunting experience than it was in the past. For most patients, this will translate into physical and psychological benefits. These include less and smaller scars, diminished post-operative pain, less damage to muscle and skin, and a quicker return to normal activities.

“Patients are usually ready to be discharged within four to five hours of the surgery, allowing for recovery in the comfort of their own home,” said Dr. Dolphin.

If you have a golf-related injury, take the time to find out if a minimally invasive procedure is right for you.

To learn more about the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center, go to www.mvhealth.net and visit Facebook at facebook.com/MississippiValleySurgeryCenter.

To learn more about Orthopaedic Specialists, visit www.osquadcities.com and visit Facebook at facebook.com/osquadcities.

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