It’s no wonder that golfers have low back pain. It’s a baby boomer sport and growing every year in the number of new golf enthusiasts. Twenty-five percent of the 26 million golfers are over the age of 65. But age isn’t the only factor in golf injuries, and a recent literature review from the journal Sports Health helps to explain why lower back pain is such a common occurrence among golfers.
At face value, golf may not look strenuous or taxing on the body, but as you age, spinal mobility tends to decline. The ability of the spine to absorb forces decreases with age. The predominant injury amongst golfers is low back injury that lasts between two and four weeks of injury in those who get it. Surprisingly, the golfer’s low back injury won’t incapacitate most of them suddenly but instead, the pain will creep up on them the more they play the sport.
Swinging Styles Contribute to Back Pain
It’s actually the modern way of playing the sport that is detrimental to the spine. For example, to swing correctly, you’ll have to separate your hips and shoulders during the backswing. At the end of the swing, you’ll be in a position of lumbar hyperextension. Also, by contracting your abdominal muscles during the follow-up phase and rotating your trunk with feet planted in one place, the intervertebral disc is highly stressed.
The increased pressure in the spine during the downswing to follow-through is great enough to be considered equivalent to football linemen hitting a sled. The pressure experienced in golfing exceeds the pressure needed to cause a prolapse of the disc. However, with older individuals more prone to develop osteoporosis later in life, the increased pressure in the spine from golf could be enough to fracture a rib or vertebrae, let alone cause stress fractures.
Another common occurrence in golfers is injury to the paraspinal muscles. MRI scans have revealed tears in these muscles, especially in amateur golfers. Treatment of the muscle injuries is generally centered on rest and relaxation, core muscle strengthening sessions, and correcting the incorrect movement pattern that caused the injury to begin with.
Tips for Avoiding Back Pain from Golf
Simple preventive steps can go a long way in preventing low back pain in golfers. Here’s a list of some of those steps.
- Make sure your club fits your body.
- Treat golf like you might treat running – not as a weekend athlete, but someone who plays the sport two or three times a week every week. This will prevent the “de-conditioning” of your muscles that occurs between golf sessions that makes you more susceptible to injury. Avoid golf sprees of five times in one week and none the next.
- Push that golf cart. Don’t pull it.
- Use a long putter during one round. This will decrease stress on the spine.
- To carry a golf bag, use the ones that have a dual backpack strap.
- Lose any excess weight before you start the sport.
- See your local chiropractor to ensure you’re using proper body mechanics to prevent back injuries from golf and everyday activities. Chiropractors can also keep your spine properly aligned to reduce your risk of herniated discs and pain from osteoarthritis.
Then go out and have your best and greatest golf season yet!
Finn, Christopher. Rehabilitation of Low Back Pain in Golfers: From Diagnosis to Return to Sport. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach 2013. DOI: 10.1177/1941738113479893.