Back pain is the most common musculoskeletal complaint experienced by both amateur and professional golfers. In a study I conducted on professional golfers published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2004, one third of the professional golfers had experienced significant back pain that limited their golf performance. The study also showed that loss of motion in the hip led to greater risk for back pain. Based on this study and other studies, below are simple tips to help avoid back pain and increase distance on your drives.
- Maintaining hip flexibility is important. Do the following stretch as shown in the image before playing golf for a minimum of 15 seconds, three times on both sides. This will warm up the muscles in the hip and back that are prone to injury.
- Core and hip strength are essential in avoiding injuries, as lack of strength and endurance will put greater stresses on the back and thus increased risk of injury. Do 25 to 50 repetitions of standing single leg kicks on each side after you’re done with playing golf: stand with both feet together on the ground, lift one leg to the side and then bring it back down to the starting position. You can hold onto a chair if you need help with balance. Do not do strengthening exercises before playing golf in order to avoid fatigue.
- Staying well hydrated is essential in avoiding all injuries including back injuries. Drink plenty of fluids a few hours before playing golf. This is especially crucial when playing in the heat.
- If you have mild back pain when playing golf, it is ideal to use an eight hour heat patch during a round of golf. A study by Tao et al. published in 2005 showed that sustained heat relieved back pain and muscle spasms. Ice the back for 15 minutes after playing golf to reduce inflammation. Of course, it is important to consult with your physician if you are experiencing pain.
- Although you should consult your physician before taking any supplements as drug interactions should be evaluated, curcumin 1000 mg along with fish oil 2000 mg have been shown to reduce stiffness in the low back. One thousands units of vitamin D taken daily have also been shown to reduce back pain in a study by Leavitt et al. published in 2008. Consult with your physician before taking any supplements.
Hopefully these simple tips will lead to more yards and less pain!
Dr. Vijay Vad is a physiatrist at Hospital for Special Surgery. He is also the author of the books, Back Rx, Arthritis Rx and Golf Rx, published by Penguin Books.