Anyone who plays golf can tell you that golf-related back injuries are no joke; just one wrong move can cause you a lot of unnecessary trouble. But generally speaking, is golf bad for your back? Or are those injuries isolated incidents?
Golf can, but doesn’t have to, be bad for your back. It puts a lot of strain on your lumbar vertebrae, but that doesn’t have to translate into back injury. Proper stretching prior to playing, taking adequate rests between rounds, and playing with the correct form can protect you from golf-related back pain.
Let’s discuss why golf tends to cause a lot of back injuries and the steps you can take to reduce the possibility of this happening.
Why Is Golf Bad for Your Back?
By design, the movements required to carry out a successful swing in golf pose a risk to the lumbar vertebrae. You’re basically creating an artificial compressive force that can reach eight times your body weight over the same surface area.
However, the current trend of severe back injuries in pro golf can be attributed to changes in the instructions. Many golf coaches swear by limiting your hip movements, restricting them as you’re going for a backswing. This is supposed to propel your forward movement, giving it more power.
Tensing the hip muscles puts a lot more strain on the lumbar spine, so any wrong movement or unintentional slip can have a compounding effect on the injury.
That’s why golfers from the 1970s say that they got hurt a lot less than contemporary golfers, who could start suffering in their early 20s.
That said, golf doesn’t have to cause a severe injury for it to be troublesome for your back. General soreness in the upper, middle, or lower back is a common side effect of going golfing at the start of the season. This is usually due to a lack of proper form and insufficient warming up.
So how do you prevent back injuries while playing?
How to Prevent Back Injuries From Golf
There are a few steps you can take to minimize the chance of getting a back injury while golfing. We broke them down into things you can do before, during, and after playing.
Before You Play
- Warm up: taking the time to warm up will ensure your muscles are extended to their full range of motion. That way, you won’t have any unpleasant surprises if you swing with too much force. Do this on both sides, too, to avoid soreness or stiffness later on.
Try a dynamic warm-up where you do two or three exercises right on the course. This will help strengthen your core and give your back a chance to adapt to the movements.
- Take lessons: if it’s been a while since you last played, maybe it’s best to ask a coach to instruct you on how to stand, hold the club, and swing properly to avoid injuries.
- Test your swing: before you hit any balls, test your swing a few times to figure out whether they’re anything unusual or uncomfortable.
- Don’t use too much power:an aggressive swing might look more impressive, but it also increases your chance of hurting yourself. Use moderation and avoid hitting too hard.
- Check for proper form and technique: here are a few tips on how to avoid injury during playing:
- During the backswing, raise your heel a little to allow for your feet to twist, rotating your trunk instead of twisting your spine.
- Your hips and shoulders should be aligned. Having them in a straight line will keep your posture upright to avoid torsion.
- Make the backswing a little shorter. This will make the rotational and compression forces on your lower back less severe.
- If you experience discomfort while bending forward, try standing closer to the golf ball.
- Stand with your legs slightly apart. This will allow for more rotation of your hip joints instead of pushing against your lower back.
- Take a few breaks:if you’re starting to feel worn out, take a 10–15 minute break between every few holes to rest your back, arms, and shoulders.
After You’re Done
- Be careful while lifting your bag: one of the most common reasons for back injuries is lifting something heavy incorrectly. This applies to your golf bag, as well. Just like with heavy boxes, squat slightly, engage your core, and lift gradually.
- Know when to stop: If you’re feeling the slightest bit of discomfort, it’s time to call it a day. Don’t push yourself to keep playing if you feel something is wrong, especially when it comes to muscle tears and disc herniation. A small injury can turn serious if you try to power through it.
How to Recover from a Golfing Back Injury
There are a few things you can do to ease the pain of a golf-related injury:
- Get enough rest to promote healing. This will probably require a day or two of minimal effort.
- Apply ice first to ease swelling and discomfort, then moist heat in the form of steamy showers or sauna visits to relax the muscles.
- If needed, use OTC pain medication like Tylenol or Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation.
- If you notice there’s no improvement or worsening pain, call your doctor and schedule an appointment to get your back checked.
Whether you’re starting out or have been playing golf for decades, you’ve probably heard of someone whose back got really hurt while playing. This can make you wonder, is golf bad for your back?
The general consensus seems to be that the repetitive movements that require twisting your spine cause most golf-related back injuries. The compressive forces applied to your lower back are about eight times your body weight, which is sometimes too much to handle.
You can, however, avoid such injuries by sufficiently warming up on the course before playing, sticking to proper form, and taking regular breaks. Being careful while carrying your golf bag isn’t any less important than playing with correct form when you’re trying to avoid injury as well.