Best Way to Treat Back Pain in Golfers

Just watching golf on television is enough to see how much stress and strain is put on the low back with each swing. But give it a try sometime and you will experience firsthand why low back pain is so common among golfers — whether in the amateur or professional golfer.

In this article, physical therapist, Christopher Finn, from the Par4Success Golf Performance Center in Durham (North Carolina) presents current evidence from published studies and ideas from his own practice on injury prevention and rehabilitation among golfers.

Lumbar (low back) pain is a common symptom in most golfers who stick with the sport over a long period of time. The repetitive motion, rotation, and strain from the golf swing create pressure on the discs of the spine. The increased load and force on the spine are intense enough to damage muscles, joints, discs, and even the ribs. More than one-third (34.5 per cent) of all injuries among golfers results in low back pain.

What can be done to prevent these common low back conditions in golfers? Mr. Finn suggests the following:

  • Golfers with low back pain should be encouraged to seek help early on rather than wait and see if it goes away. Correction of swing faults, muscle imbalances, or other improper golf techniques can aid in prevention of worsening symptoms or repeated injury.
  • Breath control during swinging or putting is recognized as an important part of injury prevention in this sport.
  • Proper clubs fit to body specifications is a must for each individual player.
  • Simple things can make a difference: push the golf cart rather than pulling it, use a golf bag with dual straps rather than a single strap, and maintain proper body weight for size (being overweight is a risk factor for low back injury).

    What can the physical therapist offer golfers? The physical therapist can assess the individual golfer for range-of-motion, postural alignment, movement patterns, and golf swing mechanics that need correction. Specific treatment techniques vary depending on the underlying problem (e.g., facet or spinal joint irritation, disc herniation, spondylolysis or stress fracture of the spine).

    Core stability training is an important part of the rehab program for most golfers. Mr. Finn offers physical therapists interested in this topic more specifics regarding the analysis (and correction) of the golf swing sequence. A comparison of the classic swing versus the modern swing is provided in table form. Recommendations are made when to use each type. Photos of sport-specific exercises and a description of their progression are also provided.

    The authors conclude that avoiding injury among golfers begins “before the golfer ever sets foot on the course.” Golf-specific movement screening, performance training, and early rehabilitation for golf-related injuries are extremely important to aid in recovery and prevent further injury. Prevention education is the most important way to prevent injuries from ever occurring in the first place.