I have developed some severe lower back pain, please help!

Published 03/01/2011 07:19:00


I have developed some severe lower back pain that seems to be directly related to my golf game. My stretching and back exercises do not seem to help. I'm so afraid that I'll have to give the game up. Please, do you have any suggestions?



Low back pain ranks as the most frequent complaint in recreational golfers. The nature of the golf swing is such that a significant amount of force is placed on the low back (lumbar spine), particularly during vulnerable positions of hyperextension and rotation. These vulnerable positions are assumed in the normal golf swing, but poor flexibility and improper swing mechanics can cause the recreational golfer to adopt exaggerated positions of rotation and hyperextension. When these positions are assumed repeatedly throughout practice and play, injury becomes a real possibility. Consequently, one or likely more sessions with a golf pro can prove invaluable in detecting and eliminating faulty swing mechanics which may be plaguing your game and your back.


You have taken an important first step by participating in an exercise program for your low back. It is necessary that you continue this program even if it does not seem to be alleviating the symptoms caused by your golf game. As a matter of fact, it is critical you continue the exercise routine, so long as it is not reproducing your pain. Timothy Hosea, MD and Charles J Gatt JR, MD, divided back pain in the golfing population into 4 categories: mechanical, discogenic, spondylogenic and facet artropathy.


The first category, mechanical low back pain, is comprised of muscular disorders such as low back strains and muscle spasms. The final three categories concern the intervertebral joints underlying the muscular layer of your back. Even though the muscles in your low back (lumbar spine) may not be the direct source of your problem, they may indirectly be implicated in your pain. Poorly conditioned low back muscles allow more stress and strain to be placed upon the lumbar spine. Poor flexibility, particularly in muscle groups such as hip internal rotators, forces the joints in the lumbar spine to compensate by moving further into the vulnerable positions of hyperextension and rotation.


A properly designed exercise program serves a number of purposes. First it promotes increased circulation and stimulates healing to injured tissues. Secondly, the flexibility, strength, and endurance you gain will offer much greater protection from injury for both the muscles and underlying joints of the lumbar spine.


However, the exercise program, while important, has not alleviated your pain. If the program was not set up by a health professional, we advise you to seek medical attention for your condition. I would take three immediate steps. First, consult an Orthopedist and ask him or her for a referral to a physical therapist, particularly one specializing in back injuries. Second, obtain treatment from a physical therapist. Physical therapists are experts at non-operative treatments of the spine, and are excellent sources of information on rehabilitation of low back injuries. And third, seek out a golf pro and have your swing analyzed.


If you have already taken this route, many other options remain. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) and Chiropractors specialize in low back injuries and are excellent sources for relief from pain. Acupuncture is a non-traditional area that has been effective for some individuals with low back pain. The point is, if one branch of medicine fails to yield the desired results, then choose another. Don't accept the pain as an inevitable consequence of golf and of daily life until you have explored all options available to you.
It would be advisable to gather information on the practitioners in your area. If you know someone in the health care field, solicit their advice on where to seek treatment. Ask friends and co-workers if they can recommend someone in the area. As the most frequent ailment in the golf population, chances are high that someone at the club or course you play has experienced a similar problem. Ask them who and what assisted in their recovery. Like anything else, some practitioners are better than others, and you want to find someone who optimizes your chances for recovery. Just don't give up until you are better, or you are satisfied with the nature of your condition and what may be done to correct it.


The most important thing you can do for your condition is to accept responsibility for your health. You have to be an advocate for your own well being. Find quality medical help. Visit a golf pro. Always warm up prior to playing, and stretch again after playing. The FitGuide section offers an excellent warm up routine prior to initiating play. Participate in an exercise program.


The repetitive nature of the game and the stresses inherent to the golf swing from the driving range to the 18th tee place a premium on muscular endurance. Conditioned muscle reduces the stress placed upon your lumbar spine, while flexible muscle prevents the need for exaggerated positions in your low back. Robert Nirschl, MD, an expert on sports related injuries, consistently offers this advice to anyone involved in recreational sport, "Do not play a sport to get in shape, get in shape to play a sport"


1.  There are a bunch of factors that will lead-up to low back injury for golfers. Anatomical imbalances, alone, can be the culprit as can poor swing mechanics. Combine the two and you're a walking time bomb. Try to get in touch with a credible, certified golf fitness instructor who will be able to determine both. Otherwise, you will continue to be plagued by your back.

comment by bob forman - 26/07/2012 00:54

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