Over one million people play golf in Australia, making it one of the highest participation sports nationally.
Golf related injuries are common for both amateur and professional golfers, with lower back pain contributing to approximately 25% of all golfing injuries, in those that play at least three times per week.
Research also reveals that on average a lower back pain episode will keep you off the golf course for up to six weeks. It therefore makes sense to practice not only your playing techniques but also your preparation habits – to reduce your risk of injury.
In amateur golfers lower back pain is caused by:
- poor swing technique
- failure to warm up
- reduced flexibility – especially spine and hips
- reduced trunk muscle strength
- reduced general fitness
- ill-fitting equipment
We know that the main force going through your lower back during the golf swing is compression and this has been measured at up to eight times your body weight. The majority of this force occurs at impact (when you hit the ball).
Low back pain is often caused by stresses to the discs, ligaments and muscles in these areas. Excessive flexion or ‘slouching’ of your spine in various positions such as when bending forward or sitting is a common cause of pain.
Preparing for your day on the green
Golfers are often giving their back a work out prior to hitting the first shot off the tee – where habits can cause stress to the back overtime.
What habits you have formed that may be contributing to lower back pain? Use the checklist below to consider the type of load on your back associated with playing golf:
- lifting your clubs and buggy in and out of the car
- driving your car to the golf course
- assembling your buggy and searching through your golf bag
- hitting and then picking up practice balls, including putting practice
- teeing up the ball
- pushing/pulling your buggy – especially up hill
- repairing pitch marks and getting the ball out of the hole
So how does this help you to manage back pain with golf?
Gaining a better understanding of the contributing factors to back pain with golf is the first step. Now whether you’re looking to manage golf related back pain or prevent it, we’ve listed our most important tips – no matter your playing level.
- Warm up! This should incorporate specific stretching exercises; driving range and putting practice; and practice swings on the first tee. These warm up exercises should take no longer than 10 minutes each.
See your physiotherapist for a massage, stretching routines, or to strengthen the trunk, low back and neck muscles using Pilates based techniques and methods.
- Have a 3D golf swing analysis and/or golf assessment to correct your swing technique. This is otherwise referred to as ‘the MRI of your golf swing.’ A 3D analysis can assess in detail exactly the way your body moves during the golf swing in real time. This will make the cause of your back pain during golf easy to identify and manage.
- See a golf professional for a lesson to ensure your technique is correct.
- Adopt correct lifting and bending techniques to maintain spinal curves and bent knees
- Pay attention to correct equipment and usage – lighten your bag and push rather than pull your buggy.
So next time you’re preparing to head out for a game of golf or even a practice session, take note of the above, prepare like a professional and continue to enjoy your time on the green.
Ben Corso – Director of The Physio Clinic recently presented a workshop on Golf Injury Management and Rehabilitation to the Italian Sports Physiotherapy Group in Milan, in May 2017 through Manualmente.
This article is a patient centred summary of the information presented and how this can assist your golfing patients. www.thephysioclinic.com.au