Low Back Pain And Golf. Part I: Preventing Low Back Pain

In recent years golf has enjoyed a marked increase in popularity. Younger golfers have been coming out in mass but the primary reason

Low back pain and golffor the uptick in popularity is due to the baby boomer generation picking up the sport. This is wonderful for the sport but has also caused a boom in business for physical therapists like myself.

The reason is low back pain. These days, it seems like all I see is patients and golfers with low back pain. Thanks for the business! (;

But I’m a pretty nice guy and I thought I would disperse some free information on how you can prevent low back pain and avoid the cost of physical therapy.

“If you are an avid golfer over 50, 90% of you have experienced back pain that affects your golf game. Many times, low back pain results in a compensated (or altered) movement pattern that can lead to acute and chronic conditions that not only affect your golf performance but lead to an early golf retirement. Back pain is the #1 injury leading to missed golf rounds, a terrible way to live!” Quote taken from the Guide to Pain Free Golf.

As always, prevention is much easier, less time consuming, and cheaper than addressing the issue after it becomes an ISSUE. Most low back injuries that occur on the golf course are due to playing without properly preparing or warming up first.

Stop Stretching Before You Play

You may already know that you need to warm up but the following may be news to you. Static stretching(holding a stretch for longer than 7 seconds) before you play golf or hit balls will increase your risk of low back injuries. I am not going to go into further detail about this right now but if you would like to read further about stretching prior to golf, you can CLICK HERE to be directed to that article.

Muscle and Tendon Injuries

If you forgo warming up before you hit golf balls, you are running a very high risk of a muscle sprain/strain. Depending on severity, these injuries can take months to heal and often times leave scar tissue in the muscle belly itself. With scar tissue in the muscle, it is almost always permanently restricted.

ASTYM and Graston Technique for Scar Tissue

ASTYM Performed on Calf Muscle

ASTYM Performed on Calf Muscle

The best way to fix this scar tissue is to see a physical therapist who is certified in ASTYM or the Graston Technique for soft tissue mobilization. As of the date of this article, nothing else works effectively to get rid of soft tissue restrictions related to scar tissue. In my career, I have both treated patients with the ASTYM technique and have been treated as a patient with the ASTYM technique. It works! I experienced a nasty fall and roll while snow skiing and the ASTYM literally saved my low back range of motion when nothing else worked. I am completely pain free.

Warm Up

When the weather gets better, we will video and post the Age Defying Golf Warm Up routine. We use the SKLZ Gold Flex swing trainer in the warm up (as well as a variety of training methods).

You can also find various warm ups on the web. The primary aspects of a good warm up are as follows:

      -Start slowly and build up speed
        -Warm ups should address: hip and back rotation, shoulder and neck rotation, hamstring mobility.
        -No positions held for more than 5-7 seconds.


      The most often injured joint of the low back is the lowest joint, the L5-S1 joint. L5 stands for the 5th and lowest lumbar bone. The S1 stand for the 1st and highest sacral bone. The joint is where these two joints interact with each other.

      Most injuries and related pain occur here because there is too much motion placed upon this joint. The best way to reduce the rotation this joint is to improve the flexibility of the hips and thoracic (mid back)joints. If these joints rotate more, the L5-S1 joint does not need to rotate as much.

      Conversely, if hip and thoracic joints are not flexible, a tremendous amount of stress is placed on the L5-S1 joint. If uncontrolled, this will lead to the need to fuse the spine to eliminate the rotation. Lumbar fusion surgeries are bad news and usually lead to further surgeries to fuse the L4-L5 joint, then the L3-L4 joint, etc. It goes on and on with each surgery resulting in poorer outcomes and, eventually, chronic pain.

      The Guide to Pain Free Golf can prevent these issues and stop the syndrome of multiple surgeries.
      Guide to painfree golf cover

      In addition to flexibility, spinal stabilization exercises can stabilize the joints so they are controlled when you are swinging the golf club. You can address both flexibility and spinal stability with the exercise we posted in the video below:

      Next week we will address how you can treat low back pain so that you can play golf without pain, avoid costly injury, and recover from injury/surgery.


      Thanks for Reading!

      D. Ryan York, DPT CGS
      Doctor of Physical Therapy
      Certified Golf Performance Specialist
      Age Defying Golf

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