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Tips to Prevent Back Pain in Golfers

As a keen golfer, the last thing I want is not to be able to play. Poor weather is one thing, but when the sun is shining and pain is stopping you from getting out ripping your drives and sinking those 20 foot putts, life is miserable.

Believe it or not back pain in golfers is very common. Four out of five will experience pain at some point and one in five will have pain right now.

With that in mind I have put together a list of nine tips, which should help you get out there when time and the weather allows.

  1. Do not stretch beforehand  - didn’t think that would be here did you?
  2. Do warm up before playing
  3. Get fit to play golf, do not play golf to get fit
  4. Develop strength and stamina
  5. Do flexibility exercises
  6. Use brains not brawn - this is why men shy away from playing against the ladies
  7. Wear insoles if needed
  8. Wear a hat
  9. Drink and eat while on the course - not wine and Christmas dinner

Like sitting at a desk, golf is NOT a natural activity. Whereas the fresh air is invigorating and good for the heart, golf often stresses us physically and mentally. Twisting and bending put a huge load on the spinal discs and large strains on most of your joints and muscles. We also tend to forget that the vast majority of us are leisure golfers and that the extraordinary turns and speed of the top pros are NOT what we should try to emulate.

Here is the list in more detail:

1. Do not stretch before sport

Yes, golf is a sport and stretching beforehand can actually decrease performance and increase the risk of injury. Scientists think stretching may decrease the resting tone of a muscle, deadening its sensitivity and making it less able to respond to sudden bursts of activity. It may also stop the muscles from protecting a joint from getting overstretched. In one study a group of sprinters who stretched before the timed run ran more slowly. Other studies have not conclusively shown that pre-sport stretching helps to prevent injuries. The benefits of stretching remain uncertain.

2. Do warm up before sport.

Whereas stretching is discouraged walking straight from the boot of your car to the first tee is not recommended either. Give yourself about half an hour from boot to shoot. Warm up by 30 seconds of light jogging on the spot. Circle your hips (1). Gently swing your arms all the way round in both directions (2), and then cross and stretch (3). Do some gentle rotation swinging you arms (4) and then some full rotations holding a club behind you neck or upper back (5). Turn your head fully from side to side. Perform slow practice swings holding two of your shorter clubs then faster swings with one club. Repeat all of the above 10-15 times. If you have time, hit a few shots into the practice net or on the practice ground. Hit a few long putts to gauge the speed of the greens. THEN proceed to the first tee.

3. Get fit to play golf, do not play golf to get fit

Do not fall into the trap of  your only way of getting fit. The golf swing is too complex a movement for that and it doesn’t really increase the heart rate enough to be of benefit - and no, stamping your feet in frustration do not count either.

We do need to exercise between trips to the golf club. Brisk walking is helpful but other stamina building exercise such as swimming is good as it works the shoulders as well.  Tennis, badminton and squash are good too.

4. Strengthen trunk and shoulders muscles

The core stability muscles get a lot of good press and rightly so. The core muscles are the deep trunk muscles between your rib cage and your waist. They provide support in the same way that a support belt does but in a more flexible and dynamic way. If lycra is not your thing there is no need to go to Pilates classes. Simple abdominal exercises are good enough. There are plenty of good books on the subject. Just make sure that you go easy to start with, preferably on the floor or on a mat. Doing exercises on a labile surface such as a gym ball is slightly more advanced but it is very effective and tunes the muscles quickly. It’s fun too!

Shoulders and upper back muscle are often overlooked when it comes to golf specific exercises. Weights are can be expensive and the exercises can quickly get boring. Do have a go with a flexi bar. These simple exercises work on the control, flexibility and strength  in the shoulders and back. Just a few minutes a day can really make a difference.

5. Do flexibility exercises

Flexibility and control are more important than brute strength in golf. The design of the joints in the lower back does not allow for much rotation, so this mainly takes place in the mid-back and in the hips. Stiffness here places more strain on your lower back increasing the chance of injury. Shoulder stiffness can also result in impingement syndromes and muscle tears.

Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent at improving flexibility. If you do not fancy classes try one-to-one sessions to be shown a few moves.

6. Use brains not brawn

Very rarely does force alone hit the ball much further. Technique is paramount and only a qualified golf pro should teach you. Do not rely on tips and advice from friends and family members they rarely have the eye to spot where the problem really lies and how to correct it. A few lessons followed up by practice can take a lot of the strain out of the game. Poor technique means loses you more distance than brute force will ever gain you. Over-hitting the ball pushing the body to its limit is likely to cause injury to a muscle or ligament leading to pain and inflammation.

7. Wear orthotics if needed

Insoles can improve swing speed and improve distance research has shown by supporting even slightly flat feet, which causes over-pronation. Many people are unaware of over-pronation as it may happen in people with good healthy arches when standing still. However, while on the move and also while trying to swing a golf club at 100mph any minor defects can get high-lighted.

8. Wear a hat

Oh, I hate wearing a hat but whether it is summer or winter it can be an important addition to your trendy golfing attire. If you get cold your body will try to preserve heat by decreasing the blood flow to your arms and legs reserving it for the more vital internal organs. Your carefully warmed up muscles(!) will lose oxygen and nutrition and are more likely to pull and tear. Wearing a hat helps preventing heat loss through your exposed head.

During the summer your hat will help protecting you from the full force of the sun, stopping you from overheating and dehydrating. 2% dehydration equals 20% loss of performance, which handily leads us to the final item.

9. Take a drink onto the golf course and drink it. Also bring a snack.

Sipping a drink during your round helps maintaining hydration levels (see item 7). It does not need to be fancy sports drinks; squash or plain water will do just fine. Maybe also take a cereal bar, a banana or some nuts with you to keep your energy levels steady.

Using the above tips will reduce your chances of needing our help but should you have any aches and pains that are causing problems with your golf or any other aspect of your life, or if you just want a preventative check-up then contact us so we can make you an appointment to see one of our therapists.

Jan Olsen DC

Principal Chiropractor

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01903 230066