Most golfers will experience back pain in one form or another: some reports say that as many as 80% of amateur golfers injure their backs at some point.
By taking some simple lifestyle precautions, you can continue to enjoy golfing and reduce the risk of becoming one of the thousands of golfers who suffer with neck and back pain.
What Causes Back Pain while Playing Golf?
Swinging a golf club requires a smooth, repetitive motion, involving many different muscle groups in your neck, back, arms, and legs. This repetitive motion can create strain on your upper and lower back muscles in particular, which may not be strong enough to take the strain.
This movement occurs over a hundred of times per round when you combine practice before play (hitting balls), pre-shot swings before every shot, actual swings, and not to mention bending over to put the ball on the tee and to get it out of the hole after you’ve made your putt.
Excessive playing, especially for beginners, can lead to overuse injuries. Finally, while anyone who experiences back pain from any activity should stop and rest immediately, many avid golfers refuse to stop playing when injured. Continuing to play in pain can prevent an injury from healing, or even make it worse.
Tips to Avoid Golf Back Pain
- Start Slow – If you are new to golf, or haven’t played in awhile, don’t overdo it. Start with short practice sessions on the driving range before tackling 9 holes then building up to the whole course.
- Strengthen and Condition Your Body – Conditioning exercises that strengthen your core (the muscles in your back, abdomen, pelvis, and buttocks) can go a long way towards preventing injuries. Try to focus on exercises that incorporate rotation to prepare your body for the torque experienced while swinging a golf club. The golf swing is a pure rotational movement, so training your body with exercises involving core rotation will give you the best results. These exercises can be performed with light dumbbells, therabands and weighted medicine balls.
- Stretch – Golf requires a balance of strength and flexibility. Incorporating stretching into your routine will help your muscles remain supple. Stretches that isolate the core, lower back and even the gluteals are important. These stretches can be both dynamic (movement) and static (holding), depending on the time they are done. For example, before golf or practice should be dynamic stretches to prepare the body to perform. Stretching after your game or practice session can also alleviate muscle tension.
- Rest – This is an important part of keeping a healthy back that many golfers ignore. Swinging a golf club is not a movement that is natural to your body. Therefore, if you continue to play day after day, you are forcing your body to put up with strain. Give yourself some time to recover between games. Most importantly, if you do feel neck or back pain, stop playing until you can talk to your doctor or physiotherapist and rule out a serious injury.