Lower back pain is by far the most common ailment suffered by golfers of all ages. Based on data collected at TPI from over 31,000 golfers, 28.1% of all players deal with lower back pain after every round. Lower back pain is also the most common complaint seen amongst professional golfers on all tours (data suggest over 23% play with lower back pain).
In my experience, the lack of mobility seen in the ankles, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders of many golfers forces the lower back to carry all of these excessive loads and is the primary cause for most back injuries.
Here are a few simple and practical ways to ease the pain and to work preventative if you’re experiencing back pain:
1. Get more exercise. If your back is hurting, you may think the best way to get relief is to limit exercise and to rest. A day or two of rest may help, but more than that may not help the pain. Experts now know that regular physical activity can help ease inflammation and muscle tension.
2. Watch your weight. Extra pounds, especially in your midsection, can make back pain worse by shifting your centre of gravity and putting strain on your lower back. Staying within 10 pounds of your ideal weight may help control back pain.
3. If you smoke, stop. Smoking restricts the flow of nutrient-containing blood to spinal discs, so smokers are especially vulnerable to back pain.
4. Sleeping position. If you’re prone to back pain, talk with your doctor about the best sleeping position. Sleeping on your side with your knees pulled up slightly toward your chest is sometimes suggested. Prefer to sleep on your back? Put one pillow under your knees and another under your lower back. Sleeping on your stomach can be especially hard on your back. If you can’t sleep any other way, place a pillow under your hips.
5. Pay attention to your posture. The best chair for preventing back pain is one with a straight back or low-back support. Keep your knees a bit higher than your hips while seated. Prop your feet on a stool if you need to. If you must stand for a prolonged period, keep your head up and your stomach pulled in. If possible, rest one foot on a stool — and switch feet every five to 15 minutes.
6. Be careful how you lift. Don’t bend over from the waist to lift heavy objects. Bend your knees and squat, pulling in your stomach muscles and holding the object close to your body as you stand up. Don’t twist your body while lifting. If you can, push rather than pull heavy objects. Pushing is easier on the back.
7. Avoid high heels. They can shift your centre of gravity and strain your lower back. Stick to a one-inch heel. If you have to go higher, bring along a pair of low-heeled shoes and slip into them if you become uncomfortable.
8. Forget about back braces. Various back supports are available, from elastic bands to special corsets. They can be helpful after certain kinds of surgery, but there is not much evidence that they help treat chronic back pain.