Back pain from golf? Professor of kinesiology, Dr. Michael A. Smith, says that these three things can help ease back pain.

By Fly Pin High |
May 5, 2023

Let me start by saying that I am not a player of golf. When I was young, I loved playing golf. Because I loved it so much, I chose not to pursue the career. Huh? It’s true, I never pursued it. I was afraid I would get addicted to golf, just like everyone else who plays. I wouldn’t have time for anything else.

Even though I do not play golf, I understand the movements and their potential to cause injury. I’d like to add that those who do not play golf are often surprised to find out that the sport isn’t as safe as it seems. It involves hitting a ball with a small stick, jumping into a cart, and then riding down the fairway. It’s easy to be fooled by appearances.

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Warm up and stretch your muscles before playing golf

Golf is unique in many ways. Golfers are known to perform their maximum effort without any warmup. Sprinters would not crouch in the starting blocks to make powerful strides if they had not done a thorough warmup. This includes light jogging and then increasing intensity running, as well as stretching exercises. Warmups of this kind are essential to almost every sport, with the exception of golf.

Gary Woodland stretching on the No. The second round of The 2023 Masters Golf Tournament will take place on the No. Rob Schumacher, USA TODAY Network

The golfer may have driven several practice balls, and think that they’re warmed up. It’s not enough, and it is quite different from a warmup designed to prepare the muscles, joints and connective tissue surrounding the joints for the powerful challenge that comes with driving a ball as far away as possible.

Imagine this: A golfer who has not warmed up properly addresses the ball, rears back, elevates the arms and then swings with powerful muscular contractions that create tremendous momentum and force. Imagine this: A golfer, who hasn’t warmed up, addresses the ball. He rears back and raises his arms. Then, he swings, using powerful muscle contractions to create force and momentum, while also twisting his lower back. This is a recipe for injury, not only to the lower spine, but to the elbows, wrists and knees as well.

What is the best option for back pain?

Joe was a golfer I knew many years ago. Joe, like many others, complained about lower back pain. He also, like most people, never warmed up properly. The pain became so severe that it affected his golfing and he reluctantly decided to see an orthopedic surgeon. He had a few more visits and his back felt a bit better but not enough for him to be able to play golf again. He was frustrated and told his doctor that he wanted more help to speed up his recovery.

Joe had the philosophy that the more options for treatment, the better. I agree with this wholeheartedly. With our “silo”-oriented medical model, we often fail to reach out to patients by not presenting them with all the options. Joe’s doctor, however, was clearly offended by the idea that a chiropractic could be helpful. He told Joe: “Get on the examination table and lay down, I’ll show what you can get from a chiropractic.” Joe did so, and the physician proceeded “to adjust” his lower spine. The doctor said, “That is all you will get.”

Jason Day is stretched by a trainer at the 2nd tee of the Masters Golf Tournament, held at Augusta National Golf Club. (Michael Madrid – USA TODAY Sports).

Joe got up from the table, didn’t speak a word and left the office. He immediately scheduled an appointment with the chiropractor. He told me later: “That was a real adjustment and my lower spine felt better than it has in months.”

This story illustrates that communication and collaboration among medical professionals is essential to the best interests of patients.

What are overuse injuries? How can they be prevented?

Rubber bands can help with some orthopedic injuries. You can stretch it daily and it will be fine. So you continue to do it, thinking that you’re getting away with it. If each stretch causes the rubber band to wear out, it will eventually snap.

Overuse injuries can still occur even if your warm-up is done properly. This is especially true if you’re not strong, flexible, or fit. Overuse injuries are often caused by microscopic trauma or tiny tears in the connective tissue. These are usually not noticed, but you continue to exercise. Overuse injuries are progressive and don’t cause pain until they have progressed.

Fred Couples stretching with his club before playing pro-am at Minnehaha Country Club, Sioux Falls.

What to look out for You may feel discomfort at first, but as you progress, it will disappear. Second, perhaps after going away, discomfort reappears later. The third is an increase in intensity, while the fourth is constant discomfort during daily activities. It’s not uncommon to use a brace to reduce inflammation and pain, and to take over-the counter meds to help. As the situation worsens, you will need to take a stronger prescription drug. If you continue, you will end up on the sidelines, with a full-blown sprain.

Golf is not the only sport that can cause overuse injuries. In other sports, the emphasis is on training the body so that it can cope with the stress imposed by the sport. Imagine a player in football who has never trained before stepping onto the field. No weight lifting, no running, and no flexibility exercises. It would be a catastrophe.

Tiger Woods, the first athlete golfer to emerge, changed the perception of professional golfers. A six-pack was not something that you could see, but rather, it was something one drank. Pro golfers are now trained for muscular endurance, strength and flexibility. Also, they know how important a good warm-up is. Unfortunately, even if you are fit and strong, golf injuries can happen. Tiger Woods has been through a lot, and he’s also had a serious car accident. However, by warming up and training properly you can improve your odds.

Reach Bryant Stamford, a professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology at Hanover College, at [email protected].

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