Lower Back Pain Golf

Reality Check: Is Golf Actually Bad for your Back?

Is golf bad for your back? Or do most people just have tight muscles off the course and golf simply aggravates them?

These are good questions that we’ll address today to help you avoid golf injuries and enjoy this great sport. We’ll also help with physical preparation, proper form during your swing, and how to warm up to avoid chronic pain.

Is Golf Bad for Your Back? 

Key Takeaways

  • The golf swing isn’t the easiest move on the human body thanks to the twisting and turning at high speeds, not to mention the repetition. 
  • To stay ahead of back injuries it’s recommended to work with a massage therapist or chiropractor to help with physical activity.
  • With flexibility and the right golf workouts for core muscles, you can avoid back injuries so you can enjoy the game more often.
  • If you do get injured make sure to try out physical therapy and work with a medical professional to adjust your lumbar spine.

Back Pain in Golf 

Is back pain common in golf? 

Sadly, yes for avid golfers and new players… sort of like tennis players have elbow’s issues, golfers tend to have back issues. Some of the best players in the world including Tiger, Fred Couples, Rocco Mediate, and others have all battled back issues in their career.

Health Central article also noted, “According to one 2014 study in Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, lower back pain from golf accounts for between 18% and 54% of all documented ailments, which makes LBP the most common golf injury, much more than golf upper back pain. In fact, even pros the likes of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have been sidelined with golf back pain.” 

But with the right preventive measures we can strengthen our lumbar spine and avoid injuries.

Why Back Pain Happens in Golf 

So, why is back pain, especially lower back pain, so common in golf?

A few reasons – first is the repetition. People love golf (obviously) which can lead to a lot of rounds and time on the practice range. But if you’re banging balls on the driving range all week then play all weekend, it’s a lot of wear and tear on your body.

Second, the golf swing is not the most natural movement. You swing a crooked stick at a golf ball with a club that has a little loft hoping to hit it hundreds of yards – at high speeds. Needless to say it’s not the easiest movement pattern on your body – especially your back with all the twisting.

Is Golf Bad for your Back?

Trying to swing overly hard can also complicate issues. So can a bad lie or taking a divot that is too deep. This is why it’s also important to work on your fundamentals which we’ll cover below.

Golf also causes a lot of back pain because a lot of players aren’t healthy off the course.

Then when they try to swing a club at 100 mph it can cause some issues. So many people have tight muscles, typically from a sedentary lifestyle, which makes it hard to swing the club properly.

The final reason for back pain is that too many golfers skip any sort of warm up before the round. This makes an injury much more likely and can be easily avoided by creating a warm-up routine

How to Avoid Back Injuries in Golf 

Our goal at the Left Rough is to give you tons of information to help you avoid injuries and keep playing for decades. Use these golf tips to set your body up for success every time you play golf or practice at the driving range (or golf simulator). 

Improve Your Swing Mechanics 

The first tip to help avoid back injuries is to improve your mechanics so you make better contact with the ground. Think back to a time when you took a huge, deep divot… chances are it probably hurt your back a little (or your wrist).

This type of injury can be avoided by working on different swing mechanics including:

  • Correct grip position.
  • Proper posture with knees bent.
  • Avoid early extension (a common mistake among amateur golfers).
  • Improve your tempo to maintain good form and prevent overswinging.

Take Advantage of Off Season

Too many golfers wait to improve their lumbar spine health during the season. But the Virginia Spine Institute said it’s beneficial to start now.

“Don’t wait for your first round to start getting into golf shape. To keep your back healthy, you need a strong fitness foundation. Start with aerobic exercise to improve your overall conditioning. The goal should be 30 minutes at least three days per week of walking at a vigorous pace, biking, or swimming.”

Grab our best offseason tips here.

Take Care of Your Body Off the Course

To lessen the chances of injury while playing golf you need to do the work off the golf course. 

Let’s face it, until Tiger Woods, golf did not typically attract typical athletes to the game. Now, every guy on the PGA Tour has a trainer and some even have personal chefs. Not to mention a masseuse or someone who can help with regular body work.

Even if you aren’t a professional golfer, spending 30–60 minutes on your health each day can have massive benefits. Here’s what to do for the physical preparation side of the game.

How do you train for strength in golf?

Golf Workouts 

If you aren’t exercising regularly, golf should be your new motivation. The stronger your muscles and the less tension in your body, the less likely you are to injure yourself swinging a golf club.

Focus on building strength in your legs, back, shoulders, chest, and core through compound movements. These include squats, push-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, and other movements that involve multiple muscle groups. Not only will working out help you avoid injury but likely have a big impact on your distance potential too. 

Your core is also very important in the golf swing as the game does require a lot of stamina. As Spine MD noted, “The stronger your core, the more you are able to have a composed swing repetitively. Be sure to exercise and strengthen your hips, glutes, lats, and obliques — The core is more than abs!”

Adding in some cardio each day (like walking uphill for extended periods on a treadmill), biking, running or swimming, can also help your cardiovascular system too. Plus, make it easier to walk on the golf course for some extra exercise. 

Check out our favorite golf workouts here.

Stretching and Flexibility

Working out is a great start but don’t forget about staying flexible with a regular stretching routine. This can happen before, during and after the round to help your muscles stay loose throughout the day. 

So many people sit all day at work, hunched over with bad posture, which can wreak havoc on your swing. This is why it’s important to create a stretching routine and hire professionals if needed.

The same Virginia Spine Institute article from above also said, “Studies have shown that golfers who lose hip rotation stress their spines more, so concentrating on stretches for your hip rotators should be a priority. A visit with a physical therapist or an athletic trainer with expertise in golf-specific exercises will help you build a plan and is a worthwhile investment of your time to prevent an injury down the road.”

How to Stretch for Golf

Always Warm Up Before the Round 

Finally, to avoid golf related lower back injuries make sure you always warm up before the round. Don’t get to the course, grab your clubs, and head straight to the first tee. We’re not in high school anymore and this can lead to an injury that can easily be avoided.

Whether you have five or 50 minutes before the round, always warm up. This can include:

  • Hip mobility drills at home.
  • Light stretching on the driving range then practice swings.
  • Using speed training sticks like SuperSpeed Golf or the Stack.
  • Hitting range balls, working your way from wedges to irons to woods. 

Some aspirin and/or CBD can also help you out during the round, especially if you’re walking. 

FAQs About Back Pain in Golf 

Do you have more questions or concerns about lower back in golf? If so, check out the most frequently asked questions and answers to stay healthy and play better golf. 

What are the most common back injuries in golf?

According to the same Health Central article from above, most back related injuries fall into four categories.

  • Lumbar strains. These are usually from tight muscles that are strained excessively and known as myofascial injuries.
  • Exacerbated facet arthritis. This is known as osteoarthritis of the spine and happens as the cartilage in the spine breaks down over time.
  • Disc herniation. These are extremely painful back injuries where the cushioned pads move out of position. 
  • Accidents. Sometimes a bad lie or lack of warm up can lead to a freak accident on the golf course. 

Is it okay to play golf with lower back pain?

It depends on the type of issue. If you have chronic back pain playing golf regularly might make things worse (or if you have a herniated or bulged disc). But if you have occasional back pain from sitting too often or not stretching, golf might actually help.

It’s best to always consult with your doctor or chiropractor to learn more about taking care of your body. 

Is golf swing hard on your back?

If you don’t warm up properly, exercise, or stretch, golf might be hard on your back. That’s why we recommend going through the warm-up protocol above to avoid injuries so you can keep playing golf. 

Does golf make back pain worse? 

If you have a chronic injury, yes, golf can make back pain worse. But with the right workouts and stretching routines it can also make pain back better. 

My Experience

Like most golfers I’ve had to fight some back injuries in my life. But overall I’ve avoided a lot despite how often I play golf (knocking on a wooden tee as I write this). 

For me personally, regular work with a chiropractor has helped me tremendously. I’ve been going once every two weeks for six years and think it’s had a massive impact on spine health. 

Additionally, I make sure to stay active off the golf course with short running routines, compound movements in the gym, and speed training. Working on my core muscles and back muscles regularly has also helped strengthen my thoracic spine too.

If you do get into speed training, make sure to not overdo it and try to get results overnight. The routines provided typically take 8–12 weeks, don’t rush the results.

Lastly, if you have a nagging injury don’t keep playing as it might make it worse. Take some time off, work with a specialist, and take care of yourself so you can get back to the course at 100%. 

Final Thoughts on Low Back Pain

If you aren’t taking care of your health regularly, use golf as motivation to get started now. 

Don’t wait until the new year, new month, or next week. Start today using the tips above to avoid back injuries so you can keep playing the game you love. 

If you take care of your body correctly you can play this game much longer than most sports. 

Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Michael is a friend and contributor to the Left Rough. He is a full-time writer, podcast host of Wicked Smart Golf, and mental golf coach. He’s played for 25+ years and regularly competes in amateur golf tournaments in Arizona.

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