Golf and Back Pain
Golf is not a contact sport. So why can the game be so physically painful sometimes? There is golfer’s elbow, wrist problems, shoulder problems, hip problems and leg problems. But the most common physical problem is back pain. With a golfer taking more than 100 swings (practice and real) during an 18-hole round, it’s easy to see why problems develop. In any sport, risk of injury is sometimes unavoidable, but there are things you can do to help prevent injuries such as back pain.
Here are some things to keep you on the golf course and out of the doctor’s office:
Start with proper warm up and end with adequate cool down
With over 25 years treating athletes, amateur and professional, Lisa Chase, PT, OMPT, Astym Cert. has seen what back pain can do to derail a golfer’s training plan. Luckily, just doing a proper warm up and cool down can go a long way towards preventing back pain.
Many athletes warm up their legs, shoulders, and arms prior to golfing, but often neglect their spines. This becomes a problem because golf is a rotational sport and every swing creates forces throughout the spine and surrounding muscles and fascia in your back. Here are some tips for a proper golf warm up:
- Start dynamic. Dynamic stretching is preferred to static stretching prior to exercise because it brings blood flow to the muscles and simulates the activity you’re about to perform. Before golfing, place a club behind your neck to simulate rotational movements to help warm up spine and hips.
- Stretch after. Stretching is best used during your cool down. Before you hop back in the car (or head home in your golf cart) try some trunk twists and waist bends to stretch out your back to maintain the rotation you’ve gained following your 18 holes.
If you’ve already been doing a proper warm up/cool down and are still experiencing back pain, there may be other factors at play. A great first step is to consult a sports physical therapist to identify any movement/mobility restrictions or strength/stability deficits that could be creating compensatory movements that may be causing your back pain.
Next Steps to Consider
Many golfers experience back pain because of a lack of mobility or stability. If a golfer can’t rotate his spine, shoulders and hips, there’s going to be compensation somewhere in the kinetic chain. When forces are poorly distributed it can eventually lead to back pain. An experienced sports physical therapist will be able to evaluate the body and help a golfer problem solve possible contributing factors and take steps to improve any deficits.
At Back 2 Normal we take a collaborative approach to fixing problems and getting athletes back on the course. Here are some things we have found particularly effective:
- Pilates: Want to take your performance to the next level and lessen your injury risk for back pain, give Pilates a try! Pilates is a practice that focuses on breathing, strength and flexibility through various movements, which is perfect for golf. Besides the reduced injury risk, the flexibility and the stability that can be gained from Pilates can increase the amount of turn and club head speed, which can make for better and longer shots. Pilates workouts can also be designed to simulate a backswing and follow through and to teach appropriate breathing during the swing.
- Astym: Sometimes, exercise is not enough and other techniques need to be incorporated into a treatment program to optimize healing. Astym therapy, evidenced to engage the regenerative mechanisms of the body and promote the healing of soft tissues, has been well researched and repeatedly been shown to be safe and effective. Astym treatment doesn’t just treat the symptoms or hide a problem with a temporary solution. Astym zeroes in on the underlying physiology responsible for injuries. It treats the entire kinetic chain from the ground up, corrects improper movement patterns, resolves compensations and help redistribute forces to ultimately reduce your back pain. Response rates to Astym therapy are high, and most patients experience improvement.
“Within two treatments, I had my full range of motion back in my thoracic spine, as well as my hips and ankles, no pain whatsoever, and a far improved golf swing.” – Pro LGPA Golfer, Emma de Groot
- See a Golf Pro: Once your body is moving well, the missing link may be your swing mechanics. Bad swing mechanics can quickly derail your golf game and lead to recurrent injuries. An experienced sports physical therapist will work with other fitness and coaching professionals to make sure you get back in the game as safely as possible. Find a golf pro who can assess the finest details of your swing mechanics and will work with your PT to help get you back in the game. Check out this link to review some basic swing mechanics to see if your mechanics are getting in the way of a full recovery and optimal performance.