Swinging with Pain – Golf

Golf is one of the most popular sports that people play as they age. People love playing the game because it is not only fun, but it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors and exercise. I have a lot of patients that love the game of golf, however, some of them can’t enjoy it as much as they want to because of golf induced pain. One of the most common injuries from golf is BACK PAIN. This is due to the demand of the sport. In this short article, I will explain why back pain occurs during golf and the best ways to minimize damage. I will lastly discuss that if you do get an irritated back, things that you can do to help ease the symptoms. 

The golf swing can produce a large amount of load on the spine and back musculature. The force on the lumbar spine (low back) from a golf swing can reach up to eight times a person’s body weight because of the combination of shear force, rotation and lateral bending of the spine. A person may not feel the pain when first starting to play, but over time the cumulative load will cause pain to develop. 

The modern golf swing emphasizes an extreme shoulder rotation with a restricted hip turn by keeping the lead foot flat on the ground throughout the swing. When this occurs there is a tremendous amount of torsional force that is put on the spine. Over time if this is not adjusted golfers will develop back pain. 

Common injuries to the back that golfers are predisposed to are the following: 

1)    Muscle strain: Graded stages of muscle fiber tears. 

2)    Disc Herniation: Shock absorbers in between a person’s vertebrae that get damaged. Can range from the damage of outer cartilage ring to complete rupture of the fluid centre through the cartilage ring. 

3)    Stress fracture: Fracture of certain parts of the vertebrae because of cumulative trauma. 

4)    Accelerated arthritis: An increase in the degenerative process of the spine. 

It is evident that the above conditions are not any type of injury people would like to experience as they can lead to severe pain. As a result of this risk, it prohibits or causes people to avoid or stop golfing, however, by adjusting the form it can significantly decrease the amount of force that travels through the spine. To decrease the amount of force on the spine a person must raise the lead heel during the swing to allow a greater hip turn, which reduces the torque on the spine. In laymen terms, make sure your feet aren’t locked to the ground, the lead heel is lifted and the hips are open facing where the ball is traveling.

If you’re a golfer who already has back pain, there are management steps you can take. Management should include preventative exercises and proper warm up before the game. 

Stabilization exercises have been shown to help reduce the occurrence of low back pain. For example, rotational exercises that help increase thoracic rotation (mid-back) has been used to help treat golfers with low back pain.  therapy from trained professionals focusing on normalizing muscular tension, improving joint health and facilitating an increase in of motion are all vital for longevity in the sport.  If you go for and find that you’re back is irritated, rest and ice are the best possible things to do right after the game.

People love the game of golf and as they age they want to play it more often for longer periods. To increase the longevity of their amateur career they must take the proper management and preventative measures to decrease the probability of developing any possible back injuries in the future. It’s all about quality of life and if you cannot enjoy what you love it can impact your life in a negative manner.  Don’t let bad form stop you. Be conscious of the way you swing and adjust if necessary. Take the proper steps to a healthier you! 

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Dr. Salim Mana

Chiropractor DC

Dr. Mana is our founder and head chiropractor here at Central Health. He graduated from New York Chiropractic College in 2017. He provides a variety of treatment options to help support the diverse needs of his patients.

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