Back Pain in the Game of Golf
It’s the first round of the season. The original plan was to leave early last night, have a restful sleep, get up and stretch, warm up, and then practice on the range for 30 minutes to work out all the kinks.
In reality: I got a late start last night, had to get up early, started pounding the pavement driving past pylons and slow moving trucks through the mountains of British Columbia, and had no chance to breathe. There wasn’t even any cell service to change the tee time. I drove for over 4 hours, sit-racing the entire time to get to the most beautiful golf course in Montana, just so that I could play a nice relaxing game of golf at The Wilderness Club in Eureka.
As soon as I arrived, I got out of my car, panting, sweating, all dressed and ready to play, which was good because I was next in line to tee off. One year after my 6th car accident, the long drive had made me quite stiff. Sitting that long was not only painful but caused my feet to go numb and my fingers to have some tingling.
Up to this point, I had never really had a bad game of golf. I typically limited my rounds not on purpose, but due to a lack of time. I have never liked to practice in any of my sports. I would show up and play full out and people would say where did she come from? My philosophy for golf was and is that 4 holes is perfect, 9 holes is doable, and 18 holes is 9 holes too long. This ideology could all stem from the trauma of my first round of golf, which only lasted 4 holes (see previous blog). https://www.simonefortier.com/dangers-of-golf
Let’s continue discussing The Dangers of Golf as outlined in my last blog:
Head Injury: https://www.simonefortier.com/dangers-of-golf/
In this blog, we are going to address how golf increases back pain or creates back pain. According to statistics compiled by the PGA Tour in 2014, 50% of players will sustain a back injury over their career, and that is for professional golfers who have superior form and conditioning. Golf appears to be quite dangerous to your back. Why is that?
Have you ever noticed or experienced a flow or ease in your swing? Simple biomechanics, moving efficiently, effortlessly, and without restriction will reduce or eliminate injury. In this case, when your body is switched on and in balance, you walk up to the ball and everything feels right, you’re on.
When you feel off or something just isn’t right, that is the day when your body feels heavy, stiff, or just plain stressed out. It’s then possible that the continual rotation that is required for golf becomes inhibited when your body is already tired, which may then create a dysfunctional pattern. Simple physics.
Every swing places high loads or shear forces on places of transition, which include T12-L1 vertebrae. In technical terms, what begins to happen in the body is that both the quadratus lumborum muscles and paraspinal muscles tighten, particularly on one side creating an imbalance. What this means is back pain, stiffness, and fatigue. Repetitive swings can be a problem for beginners in golf who don’t hit very far, or for golfers who try to send the ball to the end of the earth, and they may even have to take extra swings if they lose their ball—a common occurrence in golf courses having hazards. Even without these additional issues, when simply playing 18 holes of golf (4 hours of play), you are putting lot of strain on your back. Some people call this either torsion or strain on the kinetic chain, I call it fascia, where in my experience, the body collides.
Addressing only the symptoms of back pain would do a disservice to the rest of the body. Did the pain start because of the movement, or did it start because there is a lack of movement somewhere else in your body?
Solutions during a round of golf
I recommend that golfers stretch their quads between every hole, which may sound counter intuitive.
Most people want to stretch their back and hamstrings by bending forward to touch their toes, which in my experience creates more dysfunction as elongating your hamstring only causes the quads to contract, which in turn causes the back to contract. Stretching the quads relaxes your hamstrings and reduces the tension on your psoas muscle. The psoas is one of the great back pain creators.
Preventative exercises to be done daily and for life if you are serious about preventing pain or injury.
A great tool for stretching is the foam roller. By rolling your quads, IT bands will help reduce lines of tension that cause back pain. The most frequent question is how long should I roll? The best answer is ‘el dente’. 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes. 10 minutes is better than 5 minutes, and so on.
3 Stretches for Prevention of Back Pain
Open up your thoracic spine, thoracic fascia, and diaphragm. These elements are key for upper body mobility, which truly is where the power of golf hides.
- SFT Breath work -Unlock your diaphragm: start by deep breathing throughout the day. Reminder to breathe deeply while driving, at your desk, while working out. Get those muscles moving.
2. SFT version of laying on a foam roller, the roller is in alignment with your spine, open up your arms and rest there for as long as possible.
3. SFT pose: Start off in kneeling pose great stretch for spine, often called child’s pose in yoga, then with right arm, reach under and hold for 5 counts, then repeat with left arm. Repeat each arm a minimum of 3 times on each side.
Over time, this changes your fascia and creates space and movement between soft tissues, nerves, and bones, thereby reducing the probability of back strain.
Next time, we will discuss neck pain. Until then, remember to yell “fore” and always keep your eye on the ball.
For more information on Stretching Fascia Therapy (SFT) or how to stay safe on the golf course, please visit simonefortier.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org