Ask anyone what they plan to do in their retirement, and a good number of them will be quick to say “golf!” Golf is a great choice of activity since it provides a good source of exercise, it gets you out in the fresh air, and it isn’t quite so strenuous as some other forms of activity. Golf also keeps the brain active, and whether or not you’re retirement age, it’s extremely important to provide yourself with lots of engaging and mentally stimulating activities.
However, as many people will find as they get more interested in golf, the motions and demands of golf can be pretty taxing on a person’s body. Dr. Solomon Kamson, a spine specialist who also treats sports-related injuries, says that many patients find that they are more likely to notice pains in a particular part of the body after taking up a sport like golf because of the new demands that a physical activity can place on the body. Of course, it’s normal that participating in an athletic activity will lead to some strain and soreness, but when a new sport leads to significant discomfort such that a person has trouble going about their daily life afterwards, or when it becomes too uncomfortable to participate in the athletic activity because of the pain it produces, it may be time to look into methods for treating and preventing the pain.
While the pain that people may experience while golfing will vary from person to person, one of the most common types of pain reported in relation to a golfing habit is, according to Dr. Kamson, pain in the lower back. Golfing requires some very specific motions that can be taxing for the lower back, especially if you try to jump directly into golfing without warming up or if you golf a lot in a short period of time. For this reason, one of the most important things you should do if you want to golf but often experience back pain is to be sure to stretch before starting. A few good stretches include toe touches, knee lifts, a cross-body arm stretch, and a low-back hand clasp. You may also want to do some dynamic stretches by making some very slow and careful swing motions before you get going.
When you get into a game, you’ll also want to be sure that you are taking your time and not pushing yourself to make any quick or sudden swings. This can be especially tough for a golfer who’s feeling frustrated by a difficult game! Over-use and sudden jerking motions put a huge strain on the back, so you will want to be sure to avoid these unnecessary hazards.
Be sure to allow yourself plenty of opportunities to sit down if you start to feel tired. Being on your feet all day can be exhausting for the back, so if your feet, knees, or hips are starting to feel the strain, give yourself a few minutes to sit and rest.
You’ll also want to be certain that you are practicing good posture and careful lifting when carrying your golf bags. Golf bags can get very heavy, and while some people like to carry their bags to get some additional exercise, you need to be especially careful that you are practicing good habits when lifting something so cumbersome and heavy. Spine-health recommends an integrated golf bag stand that opens your bag automatically when placed on the ground so that you won’t have to bend so much to get your things. You will also want to avoid bags that place all the weight on one shoulder and you’ll want to be sure that you are lifting with bent knees and without jerking upwards suddenly. And again, be sure to give yourself plenty of breaks as soon as you feel you need them. One final tip: many people find it helpful to carry some instant cold packs in their golf bags. These can be very handy if you start to experience back pain while on the course.
If you’ve experienced chronic back pain due to a golf injury, or you’re just concerned about hurting your back while golfing, contact the Spine Institute Northwest at 206-496-0630 and speak to one of our patient advocates. Or, you can schedule an appointment online.