The tennis season is in full swing. Many of us are playing on clay courts, both green and red clay.

Clay is my favorite surface for tennis. It’s softer and much easier on your feet and legs than the hard surfaces of indoor and many outdoor tennis courts.

Because the surface is soft the ball doesn’t come off the court as fast. This can lead to longer rallies where it takes longer to win a point. It also results in the games and sets lasting longer, which can be exhausting if you aren’t in great condition.

I’ve been playing for years with a friend who vacations in Maine. Whenever he’s here, we play as often as we can. He was coming to Portland and wanted to play at my club.

Before we played he asked me to evaluate him. He was having pain in his right shoulder blade area — a big problem, especially when he served. He was also tight and sore on the top of his shoulder and right lower back. This had started several months ago.

My evaluation discovered his right shoulder was much lower than his left. There was muscle spasm on the inside of his right shoulder blade and trapezius muscle. He also had a very tender rib attachment at his spine.

I also found his pelvis to be unlevel with weakness of his right gluteus muscle. His cervical spine was also restricted when he tilted his head to the right. His core strength needed work.

Tennis is a one-sided sport. You will swing the racket hundreds of times during a match or practice. This creates a lot of stress and tension on the muscles of the upper back, shoulder and arm. There’s also a tremendous amount of torque in the pelvis and hips.

I treated him with spinal adjustments to his hips, midback, neck and ribs. This helped level his shoulders and hips while reducing the muscle spasm and pain. I showed him a series of exercises to help balance his muscles and strengthen his core.

The good news was he improved and hit his serve without pain. The bad news was he won our match. I learned to evaluate and treat him after we play!

Another player is the head teaching pro of a large New York tennis facility. A month ago he started to have stiffness and pain in the front of his right hip.

He was walking with a limp. He could not cross his leg. Playing was almost impossible. He was very concerned he had degeneration in his hip and he didn’t want hip replacement surgery.

Pain in the front of the hip with restricted motion is a reason to be worried about degenerative hip disease.

I found his hip to be very tight with spasm of the psoas and anterior hip flexor muscles. This was restricting his hip motion. His pelvis was locked on the right side as well.

Years of playing a one-sided sport had taken its toll. I performed manipulation to the pelvis and deep muscle work to the hip flexor and psoas. I gave him several exercises to do at home.

He was 50 percent better after three visits. He left for home and would continue his exercises. He was so pleased he didn’t need surgery.

Maintaining muscle and structural balance is the key to avoiding injuries playing a one-sided sport.

Dr. Robert Lynch is a former president of the Maine Chiropractic Association and head of the Lynch Chiropractic Center in South Portland. “Staying in the Game” appears every other Thursday in the Press Herald. Contact him at:

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