Changes are if you suffer from the golfin’ bug, you’ve also suffered some back pain too. Lower back pain is by far the most common ailment suffered by golfers of all ages. TPI polled over 31,000 golfers and found that 28.1% of all players deal with lower back pain after every round. And it’s not just us weekend warriors who are hurtin’. Data indicates that over 20% of pros play with pain as well. Nothing takes you out of competition like hurtin’ the old back. So Scratch here thought that he’d take a moment to educate all you out in Internet-land about how to avoid a back injury and what to do if you do get hurt.
It’s no surprise that back pain is one of the most common problems for golfers. Although you might not believe it, according to this article in The Spine Journal by Doctors Gluck, Bendo, and Spivak, the golf swing generates a tremendous amount of force. Add to that, the twisting and turning motion of swinging a club, and you’re putting a lot of stress on your lumbar spine aka your lower back. A full golf swing (backswing and follow-through) rotates the spine with a great deal of force and little control, leaving the structures in the lower back particularly open to injury.
The easiest way to prevent injuries is to make sure that you have good technique. This means you practice proper swing mechanics and club grip, proper conditioning, and use the proper equipment. When you swing a golf club, your lumbar spine goes through a variety of stresses and forces including compression and rotation. You can reduce the stress that swinging causes by:
- Rotating the shoulder and hip the same amount during the backswing. Think about it: Your spine connects them so you don’t want to force them onto different planes. Not only can you hurt yourself, but you’ll lose power in your swing
- Keeping a neutral spine position during the set-up and backswing. Many golfers think they should arch their lower back when addressing the ball – like they’re forming an “S” with their spine. This is an extremely common posture created by prolonged static postures, like sitting at a desk for years on end. However, this can lead to back pain and a bad swing. This puts stress on the muscles of the lower back. You can stick your butt out, but make sure to keep bend from the hips and keep your back flat and neutral.
Golf instructor Sean Foley, who teaches Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose, says he’s figured out the four main ways that golfers hurt themselves during their swing. Check out his article on Golf Digest to see if you’re guilty of any of these back sins!
You can also avoid injuries by following building strength in your core and having a good stretching regiment before you take to the course. Check out the video below one great back stretch you can do anywhere!
Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson says try these exercises:
- Stand with the heels of your hands on top of your buttocks, fingers pointing down, and arch your back until you feel tension. Hold for two seconds, repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Sit cross-legged with the ankle of one leg resting on the knee of the other. Grab the knee of the resting leg and pull it toward your opposite shoulder until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then push the knee down until you feel tension in the hip. Hold 30 to 60 seconds, switch legs.
- Cross your arms so your fingers touch the opposite shoulder. Turn your torso until the elbow of one arm passes over the opposite thigh. Turn the other direction. Do 10 to 15 rotations.
- Lie face down supported by your forearms and toes. Keeping your pelvis higher than your lower back, tighten your abdominals, and hold. Relax and repeat.
If you find yourself facing a serious injury, it’s generally advisable to rest for a day or two, apply heat and/or ice alternatively, and take pain medication. Medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can help decrease inflammation and reduce your pain. You can also roll out any muscle knots an sore with a foam roller. If you find that your pain still ain’t going away, it might be time to treat yourself to a massage or even consult your doctor about your lingering aches. And don’t start playing again until the pain is gone; you could just injure yourself further.