The following is a list of tips and suggested modifications for golfers dealing with back pain and/or spinal disorders, as well as those who may be returning to the game after surgery.
- The Essentials: Good practices for golfers to promote spinal health and prevent injury
- General guidelines
- Golfers with spinal stenosis and/or difficulty standing and walking for extended periods of time
- Golfers with disc conditions and/or difficulty sitting for extended periods or bending
Good practices that promote spinal health and prevent injury:
- Warm up your muscles before starting your golf game.
- Do some practice swings before getting into the game.
- Maintain good form. This includes adequate hip rotation and the ability to reach the arm across the body.
- Concentrate on isolating movement of the hips and upper trunk from the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions.
- Golfers should be able to maintain stable balance. Golfers should be able to get into a desirable finish position and hold steady on the lead leg for 20 - 30 seconds while maintaining stable balance.
What to AVOID:
- Standing and swinging on an uneven surface, which can affect the motion and stability of the spine
- Climbing in and out of a sand trap
- Too much lateral sway or rotation during the golf swing
- Keeping the weight shifted off of a leg that was symptomatic before surgery
What to be aware of:
- Weakness of the hip and thigh muscles, especially on the leading side leg. This may challenge the stability of the trunk and put excessive forces on the spine.
- Weakness of the trunk and shoulder muscles. This will challenge a golfer's balance in golf-related movement patterns. Strengthening these muscles will restore that balance.
- For golfers just returning to the game after an injury or surgery, consider reducing the swing length.
- Limit internal hip rotation to reduce stress to the lower back. Using a slightly open stance, rotate the lead leg outward along the target line at least 30 degrees, which will allow for less internal rotation of the leading leg during the finishing phase of the swing.
- Enter and exit a bunker from its lowest, most even side.
- Maintain good posture. Proper muscle activation patterns throughout the trunk, hips and shoulders lead to optimal trunk stability and core activation.
- Make a gradual progression in practice time, number of swings and number of holes played.
Golfers with spinal stenosis and/or difficulty standing and walking for extended periods:
- Avoid prolonged walking and repetitive backward bending
- Keep the abdominal muscles engaged and the belt buckle tipped upward in the golf stance.
- Consider re-introducing golf by putting and chipping..
- Slowly progress to a more upright swing position, perhaps using longer irons and woods.
Golfers with disc conditions and/or difficulty sitting for extended periods or bending:
- Avoid prolonged sitting or bending.
- Consider resuming golf by swinging the longer irons and woods with 50% effort.
- Slowly work toward using the shorter clubs, chipping and putting.
- Consider using a device for tee and ball placement and retrieval without bending over.
- Maintain the normal forward curve of the low back, tipping the belt buckle slightly downward in the golf stance.
- Consider using an extended shaft putter.
- Limit spinal flexion (the action of bending forward): keep knees straighter and keep spine straighter to reduce the forward flexed posture and encourage a more upright swing.
This may require longer clubs and/or an increased stance width.
- Use the single-leg bending technique to tee ball or retrieve ball.