19 April 2016

Lower Back Pain in Golfers

A common injury among golfers is lower back pain. Golfers who experience this problem may be frustrated because the pain inhibits their ability to enjoy the game.

Most lower back injuries that occur during a game of golf will get better over a couple of days to weeks. The most common injuries from golf include:

  • Muscle strains: typically occur with rough or forceful golf swings, or a sudden shift during the downswing.
  • Muscle and tendon detachment: generally occurs due to excessive use, accidents, or swing abnormalities while playing golf.
  • Disc injuries: can occur from swing abnormalities but it is usually due to a pre-existing disc problem that is aggravated by golf.

Relief From Lower Back Pain Caused by a Golf Injury

It is advisable to rest for a day or two, apply ice, and take pain medication. Medications like ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatory drugs, can help decrease inflammation. A follow-up of an exercise regimen to strengthen the back muscles is also recommended to prevent further injury.


Golfers should understand that avoiding injury starts before they set foot on the course.

The four key areas to focus on for prevention in golf are: warm-up, swing, bio-mechanics, and carrying the golf bag.

  • Warm-up before playing golf

A thorough warm-up before starting to play, including stretching and easy swings, is critical for the muscles to get ready for the game. First, start with stretching, stretching should be focused around the shoulder, torso, and hip regions, as well as the hamstring muscles.

  • Practice swinging before playing golf

The aim of a golf swing is to develop significant clubhead speed, and to do this a lot of torque (force) and torsion (twisting) is applied to the lower back. Golfers should emphasize a smooth, rhythmic swing, as this produces less stress and less lower back pain by minimizing muscular effort and disc and facet joint loading.

  • Bio-mechanics of golf and the lower back

The force generated by a golf swing largely stresses the L5-S1 (lumbar-sacrum) disc space because the joints at this segment allow considerable rotation. The other joints in the lower back allow more flex and extension, not as much rotation, and are relatively protected. For golfers 30 and upwards, an easy and fluid golf swing is a must if they are to avoid lower back pain and enjoy the game. The young golfers also need to really concentrate on flexibility in the hamstrings, since this will allow more motion in the pelvis and help reduce stress to the L5-S1 disc space.

  • Carrying the golf bag safely

Repeated bending over to pick up a golf bag can stress the lower back and lead to a muscle strain. An integrated golf bag stand, that opens when the bag is set on the ground, can eliminate the need to bend over. It is advisable to use dual straps on the golf bag to evenly divide the weight across the back and reduce the chances of developing lower back pain from carrying an uneven load.

For the millions of people who have chronic, long-standing lower back pain, golf can still be an enjoyable sport. However, a regular routine of stretching and low-impact exercise is critical to maintain the ability to play golf.


dr. Sophia Hage, SpKO

Life-enthusiast and occasional sports medicine doctor

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