Lower Back Pain From Golf


Golf Back Pain

Lower Back Pain From Golf?

Lower back pain is the most common injury sustained from golf for both amateur and professional golfers. Different research articles have found that the incidence rate of lower back pain from golf can be anywhere from 18% all the way up to a staggering 54%. Regardless of the exact numbers it is safe to say that lower back pain is the most common ailment in golf and what is likely to keep you off the golf course and enjoying the game you love. In this article I will go over what causes golf related lower back pain, how to prevent it, and what you can do about it to get back on the course.

Causes of Lower back pain from golf

1. Compensation

The golf swing is a very complex movement which requires mobility, strength, power, and coordination to name a few. If one component is lacking the body will find a way to compensate to make the swing work. While this can work for a while eventually the weakest link will rear it’s ugly head. While the lower back is often where golfers will have the most pain that does not mean that the lower back is the problem. The lower back may be taking up the slack for a lack of mobility and strength elsewhere in the body forcing the lower back to produce torsion and twisting which it is not designed to do. The lumbar vertebrae can perform 4 motions- flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation. Rotation however is very limited in the lumbar spine. Due to the ever increasing amount of sitting and sedentary work that has creeped into our lives we often develop very poor hip, ankle, thoracic, and upper extremity mobility. Due to this lack of mobility during the golf swing the body will try and eek out as much rotation from the lumbar spine which can lead to inflammation, muscle strain or pull, disc problems, and of course pain. I will go over below what you should do if this sounds like you, but the short answer is to take time off and rest than improve your strength and mobility prior to returning to golf or you will just go though the whole cycle again.

2. Lack of Warmup

man Stretching

It’s Friday afternoon at 4:50 and you have a 5:15 tee time lined up. Your sitting at your desk at work counting down the minutes until you can rush out the door and drive to your local muni for a quick 9 to start the weekend off right. You rush to the golf course, grab your golf cart, take a few practice swings at the first tee box and blast the first drive. Now if you are under 30 years old you can get away with this (for a while). However if you repeatedly do this no matter your age and especially if you are an older golfer you are asking for a heap of trouble. If you were involved in sports when you were younger did you just go out and play football, baseball, basketball or any other sport without first going through a vigorous warmup? Of course you didn’t so why would you think golf is any different? Going through a proper warm-up is one of the best things you can do to prevent injuries and pain in golf. A proper warm-up will increase blood flow to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments involved in the golf swing which will improve mobility and decrease risk of injury. A good warmup will consist of stretching and an active warmup phase such as a quick jog or just doing jumping jacks. I realize that a quick jog or jumping jacks sounds ridiculous but simply getting a mini-sweat going is one of the most effective means of warming up your entire body and making your joints more pliable and less injury prone. If you are too embarrassed to do this at the golf course, try and do it at home prior to heading to the golf course. This is even more imperative the colder it is where you are playing. Playing without warming up in the 95 degrees heat and humidity of Florida compared to playing a November round in the Northeast US when it is 45 degrees windy and cold are two completely different scenarios. You will likely be just fine in the Florida scenario but playing in the cold without a warm-up is asking for a quick trip to your Doctor.

3. Faulty Mechanics

Golf Swing demonstrating faulty mechanics

Faulty swing mechanics can lead to increased stress on ligaments and tendons throughout the body however the lower back will likely take the brunt of this. If you are not able to get to a good backswing position than you will lack the power and leverage necessary to hit the ball the distance you want. Often times golfers will try and power through this by overusing their arms and upper-body leading to an increased amount of stress and pressure being put through the lower back musculature, vertebrae, and the lumbar intervertebral discs. The most common type of injury which will lead to pain and discomfort is an overuse injury which will consist of inflammation and pain to the lower back as well as some stiffness. However it is also possible that a muscle strain or pull could result as a one time acute injury which could sideline you for weeks to months. Fixing faulty swing mechanics is one of the more challenging and time consuming ways to prevent lower back related golf pain but it is a necessity and will have the added benefit of improving your golf game. Seek out a reputable golf swing instructor to get your swing mechanics fixed and this will be one less risk factor to worry about.

How to treat Low back pain

There are different phases to recovery from golf related low back pain and this will also vary depending on the type of injury and severity. I will separate these into the acute, healing, and active recovery phases.

Acute

In the acute phase you will be experiencing pain and inflammation to the lower back. This is the bodies way of protecting that area and flooding it with nutrients and white blood cells. The first thing you need to do is take a break from golf. You will likely need 2 to 3 weeks off the course if the injury is mild and longer if it is more severe. If you try and power through the pain it won’t just magically go away and you could begin to damage your intervertebral discs, tendons, and ligaments in the lower back. This could lead to a much bigger problem than missing your usual Sunday tee time. In addition to taking a break, icing the area will also help to reduce inflammation and pain. Use a ice or gel pack and apply for 15 to 20 minutes 2 to 3 times per day. Now just because you are taking time off the golf course does not mean you should just sit around and watch TV all day. Quite the contrary the low back will still need plenty of blood flow and nutrients. Getting some light activity such as a brisk walk or light household chores so long as you are not excessively bending or twisting will be beneficial to the healing process.

  1. Rest-Take 2 to 3 weeks off from golfing to allow the inflammation to decrease
  2. Ice- 15 to 20 minutes: 2 to 3 times per day
  3. Light activity- Walk, light household chores to increase blood flow and nutrient delivery to the low back

Healing Phase

The healing phase will begin at a different stage for everyone but as a general rule your back pain should be no greater than a 2/10 at rest and no greater than a 4/10 with twisting of the back. In other words it should be quite mild and tolerable. In addition if you just rotate your upper body left and right if you do feel some pain it should be the mild and dull achy feeling. If you have any sharp pain than I would advise you see a medical professional such as your Doctor, Chiropractor, or Physical Therapist as further diagnosis will be warranted. During the healing phase you can begin very light golf swings up to 50% intensity. I would recommend you start very slow and just begin swinging the club back and forth like a pendulum to get the muscles loosened and assess your tolerance. If at any point you are experiencing sharp pain or over 4/10 you are not ready to progress to this phase and should continue with the healing phase or see a medical professional. In addition to beginning to swing a golf club at a very light intensity you can begin to increase your level of physical activity including light strength activities, jogging, and increased amount of household and outdoor chores so long as you are not experiencing an exacerbation of your symptoms. You should also continue to ice the lower back 15 to 20 minutes twice per day.

  1. Can begin light swings with golf club no greater than 50% intensity and decrease ROM- Start with light pendulum swings back and forth
  2. Can resume light strength activities
  3. Can resume jogging/bicycling
  4. Continue icing 10 to 15 minutes twice per day

ACTIVE Recovery

To progress to this phase, pain at rest should be no greater than 1/10 and ideally 0. Pain when lightly swinging a golf club should be no greater than 2/10. At this point you have very few restrictions and can begin going to the driving range and slowly working up to a 100% swing. The key is to start slow and gradually work yourself up to 100%. This might take several driving range sessions or possibly longer depending on how severe the pain/injury was to begin with. Start at 50% at the start of your first session and work yourself up to 65/70%. At the next session I would still recommend starting at 50% but you can than work up to 75% if your body allows it and no sharp or acute pain is present. Repeat this until you are at 100%. In addition, you should be performing brisk walks or jogs, stretching, and increasing your strength routine up to 100%. Similar to the golf swing, start slow and light with your strength routine and gradually work up to 100%. Continue icing 15 to 20 minutes following your driving range session or workout routine.

  1. Gradually increase swing intensity from 50% up to 100% which will require several different sessions spread throughout the week or possibly weeks
  2. Increase strength routine back up to 100% however start slow and gradually increase intensity similar to your swing
  3. Continue icing low back 15 to 20 minutes following driving range session or workout routine

Prevention

Now that you are all healed up and back to playing the game you love it is important that you keep your lower back healthy and pain free. Some of these tips are similar to above. As you low back pain can be caused by a lack of warming up you can guess that having a warm-up routine will be on the list to prevent golf related low back pain.

  • Warm-up prior to every driving range session or golf outing- Any activity you can do to break a sweat combined with a stretch routine will suffice
  • Stay active outside of golf- Hit the gym 3 to 4 times per week or perform a workout at home to keep your muscles strong so that the lower back does not need to overcompensate for weakness elsewhere in the body
  • Eat right- When you are healing from any injury or illness it is imperative that you provide your body with the right nutrients. Recovering from an injury is not the time to go on a diet as you need calories to allow the body to heal. In addition to calories you need an ample amount of protein as protein is crucial to the healing process. Read this article on the importance of protein in golf-Do you need Protein for Golf?
  • When in doubt see a medical professional- This article is no substitute for advice from a medical professional. If you are having moderate to severe pain and especially if it does not go away after a few weeks you need to see a medical professional such as your Doctor who will make the proper diagnosis or refer you to another medical professional. Don’t let nagging injuries go unchecked as they can develop into a much more serious problem if you let it.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

2 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jack
Jack
2 years ago

Great article, what are your thoughts on using a heating pad after a round of golf?

Sam
Sam
2 years ago

Would you recommend I use icy hot prior or after a round to ease back pain or warm the area up first?

Disclaimer

Although I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy by profession, I am not your Physical Therapist nor am I a Medical Doctor. All content and information on this website are for informational purposes only, do not constitute medical advice, and do not establish any kind of patient-client relationship by your use of this website. A patient-client relationship with you is only formed after we have expressly entered into a written agreement with you that you have signed including our terms to represent you in a specific manner. Although we strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any professional, legal, medical and financial, or tax-related decisions.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

2 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jack
Jack
2 years ago

Great article, what are your thoughts on using a heating pad after a round of golf?

Sam
Sam
2 years ago

Would you recommend I use icy hot prior or after a round to ease back pain or warm the area up first?

Recent Posts

2
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x