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Low Back Pain a Common Golf Injury

by Jane Hodgson 28 January 2011


Golf is often considered to be a gentle sport, but low back pain is a common golf injury. Adjustment to technique alongside core stability and stretching exercises can help resolve golf low back pain.

Whilst golf has a perception as a gentle sport all golfers will know that golf injury is common. The British Journal of Sports Medicine in 1996 reported a survey which showed that 57% of amateur golfers in the United Kingdom had reported a golf injury. Golf injury can affect the back, shoulders, wrists, elbows or knees.  The most common golf injury is low back pain, a study of Australian golfers published in the American Journal of sports medicine showed that 18% of golf injuries were the lower back region.

There are three main reasons why low back pain may result from playing golf:

1. Carrying and Handling the Club Bag

Golfers who use a bag which they carry on one shoulder are far more likely to suffer from back pain than those who use a bag on wheels or a caddy. Particular stress points for the back are stooping and twisting to pick the bag up off the floor, or if the bag is always carried on the same shoulder. If using a traditional non wheeled bag in order to minimise the injury risk:

  • keep the weight in the bag to a minimum
  • Don't always carry the bag on the same side
  • bend and lift from the knees when picking the bag up from the floor, don't stoop and twist.

2. Putting Technique

A poor putting technique with the body hunched and tense over the club is more likely to result in low back pain. Consider lessons to improve technique. Equally a putter which is too short will require increased bend at the upper back causing back pain, consider a change  of clubs.

3. Swing Technique

This is the most common cause of low back pain in amateur golfers.

There are several points in the golf swing when the spine is put under most stress. The first is at the transition phase at the end of the backswing; here the lower body is rotating in the opposite direction to the upper body and spine, this provides a high torque force to transfer to the ball, but also puts the joints in the lumbar spine under stress. On the follow through the large lumbar muscles must control the deceleration forces and the lumbar spine may finish the follow through in an extended position which again closes down and stresses the lumbar joints.

Many authors attribute golfing low back pain in amateurs partly to a change from golfers using the classic swing in which the hips turn in the same direction as the lumbar rotation meaning that the lumbar spine is not wound up as far, to the modern swing in which the hips are held relatively still on the back swing whilst the lumbar spine is rotated, this builds more torque in the lumbar and shoulder muscles, but puts the lumbar spine under more rotational force and stress.

Ways to resolve back pain which results from swing technique

  • lessons to improve or change swing technique
  • core stability work to support the lumbar spine
  • stretching exercises to loosen the hips and lumbar spine
  • Good warm up technique. For amateur golfers frequently the shot which is hit with the most force is the first shot of the day the drive from the first tee. A good warm up of some stretches and some initial shots on the driving range will help prevent injury.

Disclaimer: The information on this page is written to help you understand golf injury and low back pain. There are many possible causes for low back pain and should you have any concerns you should always seek advice from a qualified health professional such as a Chartered Physiotherapist or your GP.

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About the author

Jane Hodgson - Chartered Physiotherapist Jane Hodgson Jane specialises in lower body injuries and has raced competitively in running, orienteering and adventure racing.

Did you know

57% of golfers will sustain a golf injury. The most common golf injury is low back pain.

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