If you love to golf, but your back hurts when you swing a club, know that you are not alone. The movements needed to effectively swing a golf club can put pressure on the low back. Studies show that low back pain is the most common ailment among golfers of all ages. Low back pain appears to come from the asymmetrical nature of the swing, as well as from overuse by people who golf regularly.
Some low back pain comes from flaws in swings, especially when people do not have strong core muscles or endurance. With limited internal hip rotation, the low back suffers from having to compensate. Some people experience back pain while carrying their clubs over one shoulder.
As golfers prefer to be on the links rather than at their local chiropractor’s office, asking them to sit out is not an option. Although back pain from golfing is a good reason to visit a chiropractor, especially since they can help golfers understand how to prevent back pain. Fortunately, there are many methods that can help. They include adjusting mechanics, reducing the duration of playing or practicing, wearing different shoes, and using a cart rather than carrying the clubs. If you cannot find relief in any of these tips, it might be best to take a break from the game and let your back recover.
1. Warm-Up Before Every Game
One of the most important tips for preventing low back pain is to warm up. You should never just start playing. The swinging motion is enough to cause pain in the low back, but if you warm up you should be able to avoid issues. You can stretch at home if the course is nearby, or you can do your warm-up when you arrive.
It is important to stretch areas of the body that get the most use while playing. This includes the shoulders, torso, core, hips, and hamstrings. There are several reclined hip and hamstring stretches you can do at home before you leave, including laying down and hugging the knees to your chest. You can bring one knee at a time, then both.
You can also do reclined twists while laying on your back at home. Gently bend the knees toward your chest, then drop them to one side. Look away from your knees. To increase the stretch, use your hands to push the knees closer to the ground.
When you get to the course, you can stretch your shoulders. Hold a golf club in both hands behind your back and lift. You can add a twist, too. You can also hold the club over your head and try to lower the club behind your head. Do not do toe touches if you have low back pain. But you could do a balancing knee lift if you do not have time to stretch at home.
Once you’ve stretched a bit, the next step in your warm-up should start swinging a golf club gently. Some golfers warm up by going to the driving range, increasing the size of their swing as they warm up. Start with the lightest clubs, then progress to the woods.
2. Get Your Swing Under Control
Many golfers have flaws in their swings, which can cause and eventually exacerbate low back pain. Instead of trying to fix your swing on your own, get to a pro, and have your swing evaluated. Research shows that the biomechanics of your swing can affect your body, and pro shops often have the tools that are needed to evaluate where problems exist.
If your swing has kinks in it, your low back and hips can begin to hurt. The moment of impact can be painful. You would be surprised how quickly your pain disappears when your biomechanics are working the way they should. A pro can tell you if you are slouching, twisting too much, not following through, or doing something else that puts unnecessary pressure on your low back.
3. Carry Your Bag on Both Sides
If you must carry your bag, you must switch sides after each hole. Golfers often have a preferred side, and when they never alternate sides, back pain of all types can occur. When you make a concerted effort to carry your bag on both sides, you create balance in your body and reduce the chances of experiencing pain on the links.
Walking the links is good for the body. But you can also avoid back pain by driving a cart. If you must stand while holding your golf bag, be sure that you stand with good posture so you have even pressure on your feet. You can also find relief if you use a backpack-style golf bag so you can spread out the weight of the clubs.
3. Swing On Both Sides
Part of the problem with low back pain and golf swings is that most people only swing from one side. While you might not want to start swinging from your weak side right away, you can start to practice swinging from both sides at a driving range.
When you swing from both sides, you add balance to your body. It helps relieve the pain in your low back that can happen from overuse on the dominant side, especially if you are using your low back to compensate for weaknesses in the core and hips. You can also add swings on the other side when you are warming up.
4. Pay Attention to Your Posture
When you are standing waiting for your friends, pay close attention to your posture. Are you standing evenly on both feet? Are you slouching? Are you using your golf club as a crutch? The way you stand between your swings can affect your low back pain. Stand with your spine straight, your shoulders back, and your weight distributed between your feet. When you are out on the links, avoid using your phone so you do not put added pressure on your neck, too.
Brett’s Bottom Line:
This blog was written by Dr. Brent Wells (see his bio below). Back pain is the number one reason golfers leave the game of golf. And the job of medical professionals like Dr. Wells and fitness professionals like myself is to give golfers the strategies and tools they need to keep them healthy and playing the game they enjoy. Follow these tips and you WILL be playing golf better!
About Dr. Wells
Dr. Brent Wells founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in 1998. He is currently leading 10,000 Alaskans to more active and pain-free lifestyles without drugs or invasive surgeries. He brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care in Anchorage. Dr. Wells continues to further his education with ongoing studies in spine conditions, neurology, physical rehabilitation, biomechanics, occupational ergonomics, whiplash, and brain injury traumatology. He is also a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.