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Back on the Golf Course: Preventing Lower Back Pain for the Avid Golfer

Back Pain golf

Are you a golfer struggling with lower back pain? If so, you are not alone. It is a common injury among players, making it challenging to enjoy their favourite sport. This article explores the common causes of back pain in golfers and offers strategies to avoid this discomfort. If you love playing golf and want to protect your back, this guide is an essential read.

Article Outline

  1. Understanding Back Pain in Golfers: Why It’s Common?
  2. Golf Swing Mechanics: How Can It Cause Lower Back Pain?
  3. Preventing Lower Back Pain: How Can Golfers Protect Their Spine?
  4. Warm-up: A Key to Avoid Back Pain?
  5. Golf Equipment and Posture: Do They Stress the Lower Back?
  6. Golf Injuries and Back Pain: How to Recover and Get Back on the Golf Course?
  7. Pain Relief for Golfers: What Options Are Available?
  8. Playing Golf Without Pain: How to Maintain Proper Swing Mechanics?
  9. Preventing Injury in Golf: How Can You Improve Your Game and Avoid Future Risk?
  10. Golf-Related Exercises for a Healthy Back: What Can Help?

1. Understanding Back Pain in Golfers: Why It’s Common?

Many golfers experience pain in their back due to their bodies not being conditioned to cope with the stresses a round of golf throws up. The body has to cope with not only the repetitive motion and swing characteristics involved in playing but also the ability to lift and carry (or push/pull) their bag around a course. A player will cover around 5 miles walking around an average 18-hole course.

Players must be strong enough to cope with the rotational stress on the lower back and the compressive forces exerted during a round. They also must be fit enough to get their bag of clubs around a course of 18 holes. If they are not conditioned for this, then that may cause strain on their back muscles, and in some rarer cases stress fracture of the ribs (1). Understanding these common risk factors can help you take preventative measures to reduce the risk of pain and injury.

2. Golf Swing Mechanics: How Can It Cause Lower Back Pain?

The golf swing requires complex motion, involving the spine, pelvis, and hips. If the lower back is forced into an unnatural position, such as a reverse spine angle, it can lead to injuries to the hips and thoracic spine or lumbar spine. The swing can be broken down into 5 main components, each with its own risk factors:

  1. The Takeaway – This is the initial drawback from the ball, there is minimal risk in this phase. 
  2. The Backswing – The biggest risk in this phase is a shift of weight that takes the player off balance. This can lead to a swing that will lack power at contact as rotation is limited due to the loss of balance and consequent side bend.
  3. The Transition – This is the point of moving from the top of the backswing to begin the downswing. The goal here is to be as smooth as possible. The risks are if you are too aggressive in this phase and create too much compression at the top of the range of motion on the sine and ribs, there is a greater risk of injury. Your goal here is to focus on the initiation of the rotation of your body from your legs. The mistake many amateur players make is to lead with their arms. Another risk factor for lower back injuries.
  4. The Downswing and Impact – This is ‘the moment of truth’ where the club descends and makes contact to hit the golf ball. The main goal here is to have your hands past the ball at the point of impact. 
  5. The Follow Through – As your swing finishes your goal is to be nicely balanced on your leading leg. Again, if you are too aggressive with the downswing and follow through and lead with your arms you can increase your risk of pain in the lower or thoracic spine.

Professional analysis of your swing and its mechanics, with adjustments to swing technique, may be necessary to protect yourself. Our physios can help you understand whether this will be a good idea for your back problems. A quick look at your swing versus common swing characteristics can highlight any lack of mobility or stiffness that could contribute to your back pain from golf.

3. Preventing Lower Back Pain: How Can Golfers Protect Their Spine?

Preventing lower back pain is paramount for players. Focus on correct technique and alignment, utilising the legs and hips rather than over-relying on the arms, thoracic and lumbar spine. Strength and conditioning exercises and improving technique can aid in injury prevention. Listen to your body and seek professional guidance if experiencing lower back pain. A detailed exam from one of our physios can help identify any muscle imbalances, or any other stressors that could lead to injuries and pain.

Players tend to suspect the worst and present to us thinking they have a disc injury. However, the spine is robust and designed to rotate and although pain is the most common reason for people to request an appointment it is usually just down to overuse or a muscle strain. Check out the back exercises at the end of the article for a great way to start addressing your golf-related injuries now.

4. Warm-up: A Key to Avoid Back Pain?

A good warm up before hitting the first tee can significantly reduce the chance of back pain. Mobility exercises targeting the shoulders, upper back and lower back muscles along with the hips can help. Engaging in a gradual warming up can prepare you for the increase in physical activity without stress on the lower back even before you have hit the ball.

As discussed in our football injuries post, our favorite method for warming up is the RAMP principle. The RAMP principle is actually an acronym. It stands for:

  • RAISE: Your goal is to raise your heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, focus and concentration. 
  • ACTIVATE & MOBILISE: These go hand in hand. Your goal is to activate the muscles and mobilise the joints and area’s of the body that you want to be using for the sport you are warming up for. In the case of golf, this is the whole body.
  • POTENTIATE: This is a ‘fancy’ term for increasing the intensity. Your goal is to improve the neuromuscular ‘potential’ of your body. Gradually ramping up the intensity of exercises and drills in your warm-up. Your aim is to get to 80-90% of the level required during the actual sport or activity. 

5. Golf Equipment and Posture: Do They Stress the Lower Back?

Your golf bag and clubs can be a hidden cause of pain in the lower or mid back. Using a well-designed bag and choosing the right golf club can minimise unnecessary load. Bags that can be worn like a backpack spread the load across two shoulders rather than one. You can also look at manual or electric carts to reduce the load on yourself while playing a round. For the ultimate in reducing stress, then hiring a buggy is the fallback option!

Maintaining a correct technique (as discussed above) throughout the swing also plays a crucial role in reducing your risk of lower back problems.

6. Golf Injuries and Back Pain: How to Recover and Get Back on the Golf Course?

Recovering from golf related back pain may require a combination of rest, physiotherapy, and very rarely medical intervention. Our highly skilled physios can assess and treat back injuries, providing strategies to relieve a current episode of pain. We can also help you with strategies to prevent future problems. While if a second opinion or further investigation is needed we can refer you to the right sports medicine doctor to help with that too. 

7. Pain Relief for Golfers: What Options Are Available?

If you’re a golfer suffering from low back pain, various pain-relief options may be available, from over-the-counter medications to physiotherapy. Seek professional advice to find the most suitable method for your specific back pain when golfing. Things you can do at home:

  • Heat and or Ice: Either will work; you need to use the one that helps you the most. Don’t worry about using ice in the ‘acute phase’ and heat later on. Use whatever works for you, irrespective of injury stage.
  • Massage – If you can’t get your nearest and dearest to massage you, then you can always pay for a massage with a suitable professional (such as our highly skilled sports massage therapists) or you can invest in a massage gun to do it yourself. 
  • Foam Roller – A top tip: for lower and mid back pain I always advise using two rollers, one under your lumber spine and one higher up the back. It really is the best way to self-treat to relieve back pain. 

8. Playing Golf Without Pain: How Can You Maintain Proper Swing Mechanics?

Improving your swing can prevent back pain. Focus on proper alignment, avoid over-swinging, and practice with a coach to ensure that you play without unnecessary load on your spine. Check out this guide to golf swing basics for a quick rundown of the swing and some drills to help you improve yours. 

9. Preventing Injury in Golf: How Can You Improve Your Game and Avoid Future Risk?

Injury prevention in golf requires a combination of education, proper technique, and physical conditioning. Regular exercises that target stability and mobility in your spine and pelvis. Avoiding common swing errors can make a significant difference.

10. Golf Related Exercises for a Healthy Back: What Can Help?

Golfers can benefit from exercises focusing on core strength, flexibility, and the muscles supporting the spine. Incorporating these into a daily routine can build resilience against pain in your lower back and skyrocket your game. Here are five core exercises you should always include in your routine. 

  1. Goblet Squats: A weighted squat should always be part of any strength and conditioning programme.
  2. Hamstring Bridges: A great exercise for your glutes and improving mobility in the hips.
  3. Rotator Cuff Stabilisation: Great to do as part of your routine when warming up. 
  4. Trunk Rotation With Pulleys: An effective way to improve your rotational strength, power and resilience.
  5. Half Turkish Get-ups: Again another exercise to improve your rotational strength, power and resilience.

The best way to progress the exercises is to increase the amount of resistance you use. All of these will help to improve any stability or mobility issues you have. 

Key Takeaways

  • Golfers can experience lower back pain due to improper swing mechanics and lack of warming up.
  • Preventing back pain requires adequate strength and mobility, swing technique, and attention to the right golf equipment.
  • Warming up, regular exercises, and consultation with a physiotherapist and a coach can be instrumental in both preventing and treating back pain.
  • Protecting your back doesn’t mean sacrificing your game; focusing on spinal health can even improve your golf performance.

Whether you’re an amateur golfer or an 18-hole pro, understanding how to prevent back pain can keep you enjoying the sport you love. So next time you hit the course, remember these strategies and keep swinging without the pain!

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