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Written By : Kelsey Downing, DPT
In 2014 Tiger Woods withdrew from 3 national tournaments, in 2017 he missed most of the season and has had two major back surgeries in the past 5 years. A golf pro who trains with the best and spends countless hours perfecting his game can’t even avoid back injuries in the game of golf. Golf puts a large amount of stress on the lumbar spine, which leads to the many back pains, aches, and injuries in many golfers. This article will go over the steps you can take to decrease your risks of back pain or injury in your golf game.
Why Low Back Pain is Common in Golf
First, it is important to understand why low back injuries and strains are so common in golf. There are a few factors that can lead to low back pain or injury in the game. Some of these factors include; swing mechanics, muscle imbalances, abnormal muscle recruitment, poor endurance of the trunk musculature, decreased flexibility, and even the way one carries their clubs. While all of these factors contribute to low back pain and injury, the golf swing continues to be the main culprit of these issues.
The Perfect Golf Swing with Back Pain
Some say the golf swing can make or break your game. While all players are trying to perfect their swing there are some aspects of it that can cause real pain in the lumbar spine. Golf experts have narrowed down the elements of a good golf swing on the restriction of pelvic movement while increasing the rotation through the mid-spine. This technique can definitely increase the impact speed, but this asymmetrical movement can increase strain on the lumbar spine. Many studies have shown that the lumbar spine is incapable of accommodating these forces which leads to back injury and pain.
Exercises to Prevent Back Pain for Golfing
Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Start to bring your lower back flat to the floor and slightly draw your belly button into the spine to engage your core. Push through your heels and start to bring your hips off the ground. At the top squeeze your glutes and hold 5 seconds. Slowly return back to the ground with control. Repeat 20 times.
Banded Hip Extensions
For this exercise come onto your knees with the legs shoulder-width apart. Position a long resistance band around your lower abdomen attached to an anchor. Start by sitting on your feet and then lifting your body up and out, thrusting your hips. In the end ranges, squeeze your glutes for increased engagement. Perform 20- 30.
Single-Leg Glute Bridges
Setting up in the same position as the glute bridge exercise, except with this exercise keep your right leg straight with the left remaining bent. Start to press into the heel of the left foot, lifting your hips off the ground. With this movement your right leg will lift off the ground as well and you should try to keep a level pelvis throughout the movement. Do 10-20 and then repeat on the other side.
Starting on the floor with the legs extended. Keep the low back on the floor, start to bring your right leg up as high as you can, while hovering the left leg off the ground. Then with control alternate the legs. Alternate back and forth, using the core to control the movements. Complete 10 times on each side.
Resisted Trunk Rotation
Standing with your legs hip-width apart, upright through the trunk, and holding a resistance band ahead of you that is tied to an anchor. Keeping the arms straight in front of you, start to rotate through your trunk pulling the resistance band away from the anchor. Utilizing the core muscles control the band back to the center. Do this 10 – 15 times and then switch to the other side.
This is not only a great rotational exercise but is also a fun exercise. Start by standing with the feet hip-width apart about 20 feet away from a sturdy wall. Hold a weighted med ball (weight of your choice) at arm’s length ahead of you. Explosively rotate through the trunk and throw the med ball at the wall. Catch the ball and return back to the starting position. Throughout the movement stay tight through the core and maintain an upright posture. Repeat 10- 15 times and then do the other side.
Other Tips to Reduce Back Pain With Golf
Outside of exercise, there are some other modifications you can try to decrease your chances of low back pain. Some of these include;
- Pacing out your play schedule to allow ample recovery time
- Opting for more supportive footwear that can help with back support,
- Avoid carrying your heavy golf bag putting extra wear on your back.
- Reduce overall obesity and weight gain to decrease stress on your spine
FAQ for Golfing with Back Pain
Should I Wear a Back Brace While Golfing?
For the most part wearing a back brace is fine for golfing if you have to. We tend to recommend against it so that you don’t become reliant on the brace and use your back and core muscles the way they were designed. That being said, sometimes a back brace is the only thing that will let you get in a round of golf. Try a brace that is easy to take on and off like the Sparthos Back Brace and that you can hide underneath your clothes.
What is the Best Warm Up For Golfing?
Does Kinesiotape Work for Back Pain with Golfing?
Kinesiotape is a good and safe way to try and minimize low back pain with golfing. It’s simple, inexpensive, and can be effective for some people. Our favorite type of kinesiotape is Rock Tape. You can find a simple taping pattern to do here.
Can You Golf After Back Surgery?
Absolutely. It is important that you perform you physical therapy and get strong enough before returning to golf. Most people return too early and aren’t as strong as they think they are.
Key Take Aways
Overall, back pain may be a part of the game of golf that even the pros can’t escape. If you take some of the exercises and information in this article and put them into practice you can decrease your chances of injury and allow yourself to put all your energy into your game.
Written by: Kelsey Downing, PT, DPT
Kelsey Downing earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in 2016 from Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC. Since then, she has been working in a variety of settings. From outpatient, acute care, and home health she has gained a wealth of hands-on knowledge. Additionally, she has sought out further certification in manual therapy, concussion management, and lymphedema management. She continues to be driven to learn and refine her skills to improve patient care. Pt is a frequent contributor to physicaltherapyproductreviews.com.
Bendo, J., Gluck, G., Spivak, J. “The lumbar spine and low back pain in golf: a literature review of swing biomechanics and injury prevention.” Spine Journal. 8:5 (2008): 778-788.
Beuttler, M., Hawkins, A., Lee, S., Smith, J. “Risk factors associated with low back pain in golfers: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Sports Health. 10:6 (2018): 538- 546.
Cole, M., Grimshaw, P. “The biomechanics of the modern golf swing: implications for lumbar back injuries.” Sports Medicine. 46:3 (2016): 339-351.
Lindsay, L., Vandervoort, A. “Golf-related low back pain: a review of causative factors and prevention strategies.” Asian Journal of Sports Medicine. 5:4 (2014): 224- 228.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.