WTOP Feature: Swing Into Golf Season Without Back Pain!

Authored by: VSI

With over 25 million people participating each year, it comes as no surprise that golf is one of the most common recreational sports played in America.  What may come as a surprise is that more than 36% of novice golfers and a staggering 63% of serious golfers are playing with an injury or pain related to the low back. Surely these people would prefer to hit the links rather than nurse their back pain!


We’re glad you asked. One contributing factor to this common complaint is actually the most important aspect of the sport — the golf swing. The repetitive motion and asymmetric nature of the golf swing places added stress on the lower back, leading to serious issues over time.


Picture a golf swing: the body is aligned with the ball, the club is drawn backward with one elbow staying straight and another bending at a 90 degree angle, the hips and back rotate, and the wrists are cocked. No wonder golfers experience back pain — a golf swing places the body in an unnatural form with a high propensity for mistakes. If your form isn’t perfect each time, you’re putting your back at risk.

“There’s a lot to think about when swinging a golf club – keep your arms straight, bend the elbow, rotate your back, mind the wrist action – it’s easy to make a mistake when you’re tired and your strokes are adding up,” says Dr. Colin Haines, Spine Surgeon at Virginia Spine Institute. “Unfortunately, consistently breaking form not only tanks your score, but it can lead to muscle strains and more serious conditions such as disc herniations.”

  1. ‘Over-swinging’ – in this position the spine is twisted and the body’s weight is distributed awkwardly, creating a choppy swing. Failure to have a smooth, natural swing results in increased strain on the lumbar spine.
  2. Poor posture – rounding the back, extending the lower back, or bending to the side before a swing can lead to weak muscles due to over-activation or tightness in the lower back. Furthermore, golfers are typically in this position for several hours throughout their game, fatiguing the back muscles and leaving them susceptible to injury.
  1. Warm up properly.  Studies show that most golfers have inadequate warm ups.  Make sure to stretch and hit a few practice balls before you hit the links.
  2. Improve your swing mechanics.  Don’t try to hit as hard as possible when you step up to the tee. Not only does this cause errant ball placement, but the unnatural effort increases the chance of a back injury.
  3. Maintain neutral spine positioning.  When leaning over the ball before swinging, keep your spine in its relaxed position of comfort and bend with your hips and knees.
  4. Stretch your spine and joints.  Studies have shown that golfers who have stiffer back rotation and less joint range of motion have more back pain.  This is because stiff players are forcing their bodies to move past the comfort zone, rather than using smooth, fluid motions.  Anytime you feel yourself pushing too hard, you probably are.
  5. Strengthen your core and give yourself needed rest. Golf requires serious stamina. The majority of back injuries from swinging are due to overuse, so the stronger your core, the more able you are to do repetitive swing. The core is more than abs! Be sure to exercise your hips, glutes, lats, obliques, and In the same line of thinking, don’t push yourself too hard.  Resist the temptation to play the back nine if you’re tired after the front.

If you are experiencing nagging back pain from an injury, be sure to see a specialist to get to the root of that discomfort. Don’t delay! Click here to schedule or call us today at 703.991.7362.

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