By Dr. Jose Mathew
Golf - one of America's all-time favorite sports - is becoming more popular than ever. However, like any other sport, golf can produce injuries to the lower back and spine. One very common golf injury is low back pain (usually due to muscle strains and sprains). Additionally, people who suffer from chronic or recurrent episodes of low back pain can be frustrated because the pain hinders their ability to play golf.
Common injuries in golf can include muscle sprain/ligament strain that can occur with over swinging or when not properly warmed up. Another injury can be a disc injury or disc herniation. This is usually an injury that is preexisting that gets aggravated during golf. This can present as low back pain or even down the leg similar to “sciatic“ nerve pain.
Prevention is as important as treatment with regards to the low back pain.
1. Warm-up before playing golf to prevent low back pain
Going directly to the tee at 7:00 a.m., pulling out the driver, and then proceeding to try to hit the cover off the ball is probably the surest way to sprain one's back muscles and result in low back pain. Instead, a thorough warm-up before starting to golf—including stretching and easy swings—is critical for the muscles to get ready for the game.
First, start with stretching before beginning to play golf. Stretching should emphasize the shoulder, torso, and hip regions as well as the hamstring muscles.
- The shoulder and torso may be stretched by holding a golf club behind the neck and shoulders and then rotating the torso.
- The hips may be stretched by pulling the knee to the chest.
- The hamstrings may be stretched by bending over and trying to touch the toes.
2. Carrying the golf bag safely to prevent low back pain
Repeated bending over to pick up a golf bag can stress the low back and lead to a muscle strain. An integrated golf bag stand that opens when the bag is set on the ground can eliminate the need to bend over. Some individuals like to carry their own golf bag to get more exercise, and while this maybe a good idea, bag straps that place all the pressure on one shoulder can be hard on the back. It is advisable to use dual straps on the golf bag to evenly divide the weight across the back and reduce the chances of developing low back pain from an uneven load.
Treatments for low back pain.
- Rest. Unfortunately the number one treatment will probably require the golfer to take a few days off and this includes the driving range, as well as the putting green.
- Anti-inflammatory medications for a short period of time may help with the acute pain that the golfer is suffering from. These should also be taken with caution as they can worsen a preexisting stomach ulcer and can increased blood pressure as well.
- Ice is great after a round or practice to help decrease inflammation. Heat is a good modality before activity to help stretch.
- Building up core and low back muscles are key to prevent injury and sprains to the low back as well as preventing recurrences of preexisting problems.