Summer is approaching and the golf season is already underway! Unfortunately, too often players have hung up their clubs due to chronic pain. Low back and wrist pain are among the most common complaints from avid golfers.
Rotational forces, impact stress, overuse, inadequate warm-up, bad posture, and inflexibility all increase musculoskeletal injury in golfers of all ages and abilities.
Twin Cities Pain Clinic offers their top tips to prevent pain on the golf course. But first, let’s review the types of pain most commonly experienced by golfers.
Common Pain Symptoms from Golfing
While symptoms are likely to vary from person to person, there are a few pain symptoms that tend to most commonly pop up for golfers.
- Dull, aching pain on one side of the lower back, usually the same side as your swing stance. For example, if you are a right-handed golfer, you are more likely to have pain on the right side of your lower back.
- Golfing can worsen existing spinal issues, such as facet joint syndrome or sacroiliac joint dysfunction, which can result in hip or thigh pain.
- Sharp pain in the leg can occur when a herniated disc presses on spinal nerves. According to a report by Spine Health, even an amateur golfer can generate 1,370 pounds of force during a swing. It only takes 1,220 pounds of force to herniate a disc.
- Stiffness of the low back can occur when back pain limits mobility in the low back or hips. The resulting stiffness can make common golf motions, like bending over or walking uphill, more difficult, potentially worsening the pain.
- When core muscles are consistently strained, as they are during a golf swing, the natural curve of the spine can deepen. This excessive arching is called lordosis and can worsen low back pain.
7 Tips to Prevent Back Pain on the Golf Course
OK, so now that we have established what kind of pain to keep an eye out for when golfing, let’s review some simple but important ways you can prevent pain from flaring up.
1. Strengthen Your Core
Before you even get started with a serious golf regimen, consider taking some time to get your core strength up to par. Most golf injuries are caused by poor form and control during the swing. Having strong core muscles will help you maintain better control throughout your swing which can prevent injury. Research an exercise routine that focuses on your abdominals, hips, glutes, lats, and obliques. A quick Google search can provide a wealth of options.
2. Use the Correct Sized Golf Clubs
Improperly fitted clubs can cause a multitude of problems with your swing, and your back! Proper swing form and technique are essential to staving off back pain while golfing. Incorrectly sized clubs may force you to adjust your stance while swinging in order to make contact with the ball. Short clubs force you to bend over more, while long clubs can negatively impact the mechanics of your swing. Both can increase the likelihood of pain onset.
It’s a total myth that the height of a person is the only factor that determines the length of each club for an individual. The same goes for the idea that men’s clubs should be longer than women’s clubs. Club length is not gender driven! An individual’s physiology and swing style determines club length, not manufacturing. Get fitted for clubs to ensure that they are the correct model for your body and swing type.
3. Warm Up Properly
Warming up before you start your round is one of the simplest and most important ways to reduce the chance of injury. Start by stretching the low back by lifting one knee into the chest, then alternating to the other knee. Warm up the spine with a few torso twists: Take a club and rest it behind your neck, along the shoulders. Grab each end of the club and twist the torso, as you would while swinging. Be sure to engage the core. Hold the top of the stretch for a few seconds before turning toward the other side. Don’t forget to stretch your hamstrings and wrists. It is also a good idea to take a few practice swings, focusing on proper alignment.
4. Take Care While Carrying Your Golf Bag
Depending on your arsenal of clubs, a golf bag can weight anywhere between 30-50 pounds. While walking the course and carrying your bag is good exercise, it’s a lot of weight to lug around for even a short 9-hole round. To limit potential negative consequences from bag carrying, practice good form. As always, bend your knees and lift with your legs while picking up your bag. Try to strategically position your bag during each hole to limit how often you have to lift it. Consider getting a two-shoulder bag strap to distribute the weight of the bag across your body more evenly.
5. Take Golf Lessons
Taking a few lessons will not only improve your game, but also reduce the risk of injury! Learning proper form and swing mechanics reduces muscular effort and more evenly distributes the force of the swing across your body. But developing proper form and a fluid swing is not as simple as it may appear. Since you cannot watch your swing, it is a good idea to learn from someone who can. Taking lessons from an experienced golfer can help you learn a proper technique that is best for your body.
6. Play to Your Skill Level
While it may be tempting to jump in headfirst by trying to crush the ball with every swing during a 36-hole day, resist that temptation. That’s a surefire way to stop yourself before you can even get started. While golf may look like a relatively calm and slow-paced game, it actually requires a lot of stamina and endurance. Your best bet to prevent pain is to ease into a golfing hobby.
Start with a few short, 9-hole rounds to get a feel for the game and allow your body to get in tune with the mechanics of golf. Try to focus on a smooth, correct swing as opposed to putting all your effort into maxing out your drive distance. Like any other sport, learning to golf requires patience and practice. Taking the time to learn how to golf properly will not only improve your game, but also reduce the chances of your career being cut short by pain or injury.
7. See a Specialist if You Experience Pain
If, despite your best efforts, you still experience golf-induced pain, do not wait to have it evaluated by a specialist. Getting treatment early can greatly improve the odds of a full recovery, or at the very least, more successful management of the pain. Seeking attention early also helps injuries respond better to more gentle treatments. Schedule a consultation with one of the experts at Twin Cities Pain Clinic so you can get back on the golf course ASAP!