Golf, one of America’s favorite sports, is also a cause of lower back pain among many of its players. Compared to football or baseball, golf seems like a relatively low-impact sport. Yet the physical demands placed on the lower back by the golf swing can cause both short-term and chronic back pain.
The two main back injuries associated with golf are muscle strains and disc wear. Muscle strains are the most common and occur due to the twisting of the back during the golf swing. Disc degeneration and vertebral misalignment problems are surprisingly more common in young golfers between 30 and 40 years of age. Disc degeneration is very common among the general population, even young people who feel no pain. Golfers may begin to feel pain when the game exacerbates a preexisting degenerated disc.
The lowest lumbar vertebra (L5) and the first segment of the sacrum (S1) are most affected by the golf swing. This spinal segment allows for the most rotation, whereas the others mainly facilitate forward and backward bending. The constant rotation at L5 and S1 can aggravate the spinal disc between these bones, causing it to bulge or herniate. This can lead to nerve impingement problems like sciatica.
The following tips will help you prevent back pain from golf:
One of the best ways to eliminate back pain from muscle strains is to warm up before playing golf. Many might not think warming up is necessary when participating in a low-impact sport, but the golf swing is anything but low-impact on the back. If the muscles are not warmed up, the sudden wrenching of the golf swing will cause tears in the muscle that will be exacerbated with every swing to follow. Taking a few gentle practice swings before your game will get the blood flowing to the muscles of the back, loosening them and preparing them for work.
Muscles and joints are kept limber by a regular stretching routine. Stretching sends fresh blood to the muscles which both delivers nutrients and flushes out waste. Joint range of motion is also maintained through stretching. For golfers, light stretching before and after games should be part of a back pain prevention plan. Hip muscles and hamstrings should be included in your stretching routine. The hamstrings attach to the hip, and the muscles within the hip connect to the lower back. If these muscles are tight, the position of your pelvis is altered and your ability to rotate without strain is diminished. Tight muscles in the hips and legs also change spinal alignment since they alter the position of the pelvis, which makes you more susceptible to disc injury.
The hamstrings can be stretched by lifting one leg at a time up onto a nearby object – a table, chair or golf cart – and bending at the hips to touch your elevated toes. Keep your toes pointed straight up for best results. An easy way to stretch your torso on the course is to put a golf club behind your neck, hold the ends with your hands and rotate side to side. For a quick and easy hip stretch, see the video at http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-stretch-your-hips-for-golf.
As with any sport, proper form in golf is essential to avoiding injury. If your posture is off during your swing, you can wrench the joints, discs and muscles of your back. It is important to adopt a gentle and fluid swing. Since the golf swing is not a natural movement, it is best learned under the guidance of a professional. Keep in mind that the hips, torso and shoulders should all rotate together to share the impact. See the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Py9jNZxbiU to learn how to position yourself properly before your swing.
Stretching, warming up and practicing proper form can help you prevent lower back pain from golf. Maintaining a healthy back will ensure that you can enjoy your sport for many years to come.
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