Golf and Low Back Pain

Written by Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC

The great game of golf is enjoyed by approximately 30 million Americans. The camaraderie and competitive nature of golf makes it easy for players to become overzealous and injure themselves.

Low back pain is the most common golf-related injury. A survey of golfers on the PGA tour reported that 77% suffer acute or chronic low back pain.

Inherent in the golf swing is the potential for injury to the spine. The golf swing, combined with the bent forward driving stance and the hunched over putting stance, places tremendous torque and pressure on the lower spine.

Golf is a uni-lateral sport. The unsymmetrical work creates right-to-left strength imbalances and uneven flexibility.

The process of driving a golf ball requires intense simultaneous contraction of multiple muscle groups. The energy required is equivalent to the power used to execute a two-to-four repetition maximum lift in the weight room.

The average golfer takes between 70 to 150 swings while playing and more while practicing. This repetition leads to muscle and joint fatigue.

The ribcage, shoulders, hips, knees, elbows and wrists are commonly injured in golf. If the ribcage, shoulders, and hips are painful and/or lacking proper function addition stress is placed on the spine.

These factors set the stage for golf-associated low back injuries.     

The essential elements to lessening the possibility of golf-related low back injuries are balancing your strength and flexibility, increasing your strength and flexibility, improving your endurance and warming-up properly.

Improving your health and fitness off the golf course can be accomplished in several ways. Before beginning an exercise program consult your physician. Start at your own level and gradually increase your training intensity and duration.

Results will come quickly. Be careful not to overtrain by doing “too much too soon.” A state of being slightly undertrained is healthier and possesses less chance of injury than being overtrained.

Strength training can be executed with weights, resistance bands or bodyweight exercises.

A mixture of combination and isolation exercises yields outstanding results. Combination exercises work several muscles groups in unison, while isolation exercises focus on one muscle. The golf swing incorporates many muscles to work in unison, therefore combination exercises are ideal for golfers.

Basic combination exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, swings and cleans strengthen the back, glutes, hips, thighs, shoulders and core simultaneously.  The balance and coordination required to execute these exercises properly builds strength symmetrically.

Pilates is a great exercise for golfers. Pilates stresses correct body mechanics and core stabilization. Correct movement patterns and balanced strength decrease the risk of low back injury.

Kettlebells are an excellent option for golfers. Kettlebell usage increases strength, endurance and stabilization in the abdominal and spinal muscles.

Develop muscular and cardiovascular stamina by performing aerobic exercises or a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises.

A blend of strength and cardiovascular training develops endurance and power concurrently. Fast paced strength training taxes the muscles, heart and lungs in a sports related capacity. Functional kettlebell training is a perfect example of an exercise that builds stamina and strength simultaneously.

Flexibility is achieved through stretching. Basic stretches for the hips, legs, back, neck and shoulders increase joint range of motion and muscle length. Limber muscles and proper moving joints lower the risk of low back injury while golfing.

Prepare your body for activity by warming-up thoroughly. Maintain this state of readiness by stretching between holes. Cool down after playing or practicing to decrease muscle tension that accumulated while playing.

Competitive and recreational golfers of all ages can utilize simple on and off the course procedures to increase their health, raise their fitness, limit their risk of golf-related lowback injuries and play to their optimum capabilities.

Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC is the owner and treating doctor of Championship Chiropractic located at 2595 S. Cimarron Rd, Suite #100, Las Vegas, NV 89117. Dr. Donald A. Ozello DC can be contacted at  

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