Pro golfers make it look so easy and effortless.
So much so that many recreational golfers often hit the greens thinking they will swing just like the pros.
And while they may earn bragging rights, they may also walk away with something more than a birdie.
“Back injuries, such as lumbar strains or muscle irritations, are common among recreational golfers,” says Mark A. Freeborn, MD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon with EvergreenHealth.
“The pain can be due to overuse or overexertion,” he explains. “Sometimes, weekend warrior golfers come out swinging as hard as they can. If the body is not used to the movement or if too much force is exerted, it can place a lot of stress on the back.”
None of this is surprising because a golf swing involves the whole body, and the body twists in the shape of a C as golfers drive through to a full swing.
“It’s important to know your own limitations,” Dr. Freeborn says. “Proper training and technique are also important to avoiding injury.”
That’s why Dr. Freeborn says that while it’s tempting to go straight from your car to the first tee, it’s probably the worst mistake you can make when it comes to your golf game.
“Just like any other sport, it’s critical to stretch and warm up before starting,” Dr. Freeborn advises. “Stretching will help reduce your risk of injury.”
Dr. Freeborn recommends lower back and hamstring stretching, along with trunk and spine rotations.
He says it’s also helpful to do a slow warm-up for 5-10 minutes before play.
Off the course, Dr. Freeborn also suggests weight training. “Both men and women lose muscle mass and bone calcium as they age,” he explains. “Weight training helps build muscle and may even help you hit the ball farther.”
Like any other sport or exercise, you may still end up with some strain or soreness after a round of golf.
Perhaps it’s been awhile since you’ve golfed, or maybe you’re still perfecting your technique or you pulled a muscle.
All are pretty common situations so if you find yourself with some sort of back pain, Dr. Freeborn recommends applying ice or heat for a few days.
“Ice is recommended for an acute pain, while heat is generally used for spasms and sharp pains,” he explains.
That — along with the pain reliever recommended for you by your primary care physician — often relieves the pain and helps you feel back to normal within a short time.
If pain persists beyond a week, however, or worsens in nature, such as going from the back to down one or both of the legs, that’s when Dr. Freeborn recommends seeing a physician.
“In those cases, the pain could be due to a nerve being compressed or a muscle that is strained, both of which require medical attention,” Dr. Freeborn says.
Golf may seem like a slow sport to watch, but if you ditch your golf cart and walk the course, it can get your heart beating fast.
Between walking and carrying golf clubs for three to five hours over an 18-hole course, golf is a real endurance activity.
“I always recommend walking whenever possible,” Dr. Freeborn says. “It’s good for your health — and for your game. When you walk, you get blood flowing to all your muscles, which loosens you up and can help with your performance.”
Even more, you can burn calories while you walk the course. The average person carrying clubs on the back or shoulder can burn up to 1,442 calories during an 18-hole game.
Below are a few exercises Dr. Freeborn recommends trying before heading out for a round of golf:
LOWER BACK STRETCH: