For anyone who has never played golf before, it's a curious sport that is hugely demanding on the body. Regular golfers will tell you that lower back pain is one of the most commonly reported pains amongst golfers, and some research suggests that up to one third of all golfers will suffer with lower back pain at some point in their lives!
We see many golfers in clinic, and whilst each individual's case is different, pain can be caused by some common factors, mainly lack of mobility in the ankles, hips, upper back and shoulders, all forcing the lower back to work exceptionally hard to compensate for the lack of mobility elsewhere.
What causes pain?
When you go through a golf swing, the spine has to twist to not only create the turn, but also help to drive the ball forwards. By doing this, the fine ligaments of the spine and where the pelvis connect to the back, can really be subject to a huge amount of pressure. Combine this with muscles that are not functioning at their best, due to being weak or overcompensating for other, non-flexible areas, and you quickly start to have a recipe for pain! It's worth mentioning that when we only do a movement in one direction, for example, sweeping or swinging a golf club, we put more stress on one side of our body repetitively.
So, what can be done?
Warm up thoroughly! Jumping out of your car, grabbing your clubs and heading out to the first tee isn't a great idea. Give yourself a few minutes extra and do some stretching. Stuck for ideas? Try these:
Shoulders and trunk: Holding a golf club with both hands, across the top of your shoulders, gently twist your body as far as is possible both ways 5 times.
Hips: Whilst sitting (or standing if you've exceptionally good balance), hug each knee towards your chest individually. Repeat 3 times per side.
Hamstrings: Whilst standing, cross one leg behind the other, settle your balance, and gently lean forwards as if you were going to touch your toes. Hold the stretch gently, without bouncing, for 5-10 seconds before switching legs and repeating on the opposite side.
Practice smooth swings and make sure you've got good rhythm. A good quality swing should see you using your chest, shoulders, pelvis and lower back muscles to evenly distribute the pressure of the swing through the muscles and joints. Practicing smooth, rhythmic swings when you're at home can go a long way to helping your on-course performance by building up muscle memory and strength. Start with your smaller irons and progress up your larger woods to help warm up the muscles slowly.
Still carrying your own clubs? Golf bags are very heavy and often golfers only carry them on one shoulder. This creates a huge pressure on one side of the body and can contribute to pain patterns. It's far better for you to use a golf trolley or buggy if you can, but if you have to carry your bag, make sure you use a strap on each shoulder, like a rucksack, to evenly distribute the weight across your body.
These are just some helpful suggestions for you to try, but if it doesn't make any difference to your pain then it may be time to see an osteopath. Osteopaths are specialists in relieving aches and pains and will take your golfing habits into account when they assess you. Treatments often focuses on other areas of the body too to make sure everything is working optimally and not contributing to your pain.
If you have any concerns over an injury you've picked up whilst playing golf, or you're struggling to swing your club comfortably and feel your pain is affecting your game, then do get in touch and we'll happily help you to enjoy spending more time on the green!