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Golf and Back Pain

Golf and Back Pain

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking pains to prevent pain can pay off in the long run, particularly in the sport of golf, where adequate warm-up, proper swinging form, bio-mechanics, and even the way a golfer carries the golf bag, can spell the difference between fitness and an aching back.

The Warm-up

Before teeing off, it is advisable to go through a series of warm-up exercises, like stretching and easy swings, to condition muscles for the game. Warming-up before an early morning golf game is crucial in preventing back muscle sprains and lower back pain.

Stretching comes first, paying particular attention to the shoulders, torso, hips and hamstring muscles - all the body parts directly involved in the game’s range of motions. Stretching the shoulder and torso may be accomplished by placing a golf club laterally behind the neck while moving the torso from left to right, and vice versa. Bringing the knee to the chest stretches the hips, and the tensile strength of the hamstrings is tested by bending over to touch the toes.

The next step in the warm-up is going through the motions of the actual game itself. Lightly swinging a golf club is preparatory to helping the body cope with the torque and torsion (force and twisting) involved in the actual golf swings. It would be preferable to perform this stage of the warm-up on a driving range, starting off with the smaller iron clubs to the larger wooden ones, giving the muscles a progressive warm-up.

The warm-up loosens the muscles, readies them to take on the stress of the game, and makes them less likely to incur injuries like strains and sprains.

The Practice Swings

As with every game, each golfer aims to build-up considerable clubhead speed, involving momentous torque (force) and smooth torsion (twisting), the strain of which is mainly taken on by the lower back. Keeping an even and consistent swing decreases muscular effort output, and disk and facet joint loading to prevent excessive stress that causes lower back pain.

Proper swinging incorporates the smooth motion of the shoulders, the hip, and the thoracolumbar sections of the chest and lower spine, which all equally take on the load of the swing. A level shoulder and hip rotation, coupled with a smart snap of the wrist is the better option for achieving optimum clubhead speed compared to swinging with a stiff arm.

To maintain balance, the golfer assumes a position with the knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Bending forward from the hips, the spine is straight and the weight equally distributed on the balls of both feet.

Adapting a smooth and effortless swing will go a long way in diminishing the strain on the lower back, thus avoiding back pain. Although learning and developing the perfect golf swing takes a lot of practice, novices are advised to practice with a golf instructor to learn how to avoid lower back injuries. Older golfers who have reduced strength and flexibility may benefit from a golf pro’s instructions as well.

Bio-mechanics of golf and the lower back

The segments of the L5-S1 disk space contain spinal joints that can tolerate an ample amount of rotation, and because of this, each force emanating from a golf swing puts a lot of strain on these segments (Fig. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). The rest of the joints in the lower back are more of the flexion/extension kind, and are comparatively shielded from the rigors of rotation.

Because they tend to swing harder at golf, younger players between the ages of 30 and 40 are more prone to degenerative disc disease or isthmic sponcylolisthesis, particularly in the L5-S1 disk segments. These golfers will need to develop a smooth and effortless swing in order to lessen the stress placed on the L5-S1 disc space, and avoid lower back pain while making the best of their game. Conditioning the hamstrings will also allow for more flexibility while lending more pelvic motion to prevent lower back stress.

Proper carrying the of golf bag to prevent lower back pain

Even the improper handling and carrying of a golf bag can cause considerable stress on the back, particularly if the golfer has to bend over and pick up the bag a countless number of times during the progress across the green. Having an integrated golf bag which automatically opens when set down minimizes the need to bend and pick the bag up, decreasing the risk of muscle strain.

While other golfers prefer to tout their own bags as additional form of exercise, it is advisable to use a bag with two shoulder straps like a knapsack for an even distribution of the load across the back. This reduces the risk of lower back pain from carrying a bag with single strap on one shoulder alone.

Treatment of back pain and other back injuries from golf

While the lower back may acquire strains and sprains during a full 18-hole course golf game, these injuries will right themselves within the span of days or weeks. Some of the most prevalent golf injuries involve:

1.) Muscle strains – incurred from rough or overly energetic golf swings, or shifting abruptly at the downswing.

2.) Muscle and tendon attachment – these develop from overuse, accidents or defective swinging during the game.

3.) Disc injuries – Defective swinging can cause this injury, or aggravate an existing disc lesion.

Relief from the lower back pain of a golf injury

Obtaining relief from lower back pain stemming from a golf injury is as easy as getting some rest for a couple of days to allow the injury to heal. Application of heat or ice, or a combination of both will work well with pain medication. Pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen can alleviate inflammation, while acetaminophen decreases pain symptoms in the lower back region.

Moderate exercise helps lower back pain from a golf injury

While the lower back is recuperating from a golf injury, putting further strain on the affected muscles will only worsen symptoms. Taking a break from the golf game will enable back muscles to recover sufficiently. However, incorporating a low-impact aerobic activity into the recovery program can encourage the strained muscles to return to normal. Activities like walking for up to 40 minutes at a time every other day are ideal. After recovery, a gradual return to the game is advised, with the inclusion of preventive measures to avoid reoccurrence of the injury.

Consulting a doctor for lower back pain

Should the symptoms last for more than two to six weeks, there may be an underlying reason for the lower back pain and an appropriate diagnosis must be made by a physician to determine its cause.


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