It was the end of my senior year in high school. I was 17 years old and had never felt any back discomfort in my life whatsoever. But after golfing everyday for most of April, May and June for my high school golf team, along with practicing my chips and putts for many additional hours on top of that, something finally gave way.
I woke up one morning and literally couldn’t get out of bed. My lower back, right hip and a bit down my right leg were stiff and painful. I finally was able work myself into a sitting position and remember barely being able to walk to the car for my doctor’s appointment. One I reached the car, it was nearly impossible for me to sit inside!
According to the doc, it was my sciatic nerve acting up. He prescribed an anti-inflammatory and plenty of rest. Two weeks later, I felt back to 100 percent, but I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I began a stretching routine before each round, which I continue to this very day.
Fortunately, the issue has never cropped up again. Of course, I don’t play as much as back then, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever run into problems. Now pushing 40, I realize I’m more susceptible to aches and pains – as well as easily aggravating old sore spots.
According to recent statistics, more than half of all male golfers (and nearly half of all female golfers) suffer some sort of lower back pain. If you play a second sport besides golf (like softball or even bowling), your chances for back pain increase by an additional 40 percent! And the risk goes up the older you get – especially for those over 50.
Want more bad news? Most recreational golfers (like many of us), work full time jobs where we sit at a desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. This puts us even more at risk for back problems! So what can we do to help avoid these lower back flare-ups (besides popping multiple doses of ibuprofen or acetaminophen or both)?
Well, according to this article from sportsmed.org, warming up before the round can lower your risk by more than half! Their study found that lower handicap golfers were also twice as likely to warm up for 10 minutes or more before each round (I warm up for probably 2-3 minutes)!
In addition to warming up before your round, it is strongly recommended you incorporate some sort of exercise program into your general life – especially one that helps strengthen your core, since a strong core can help stabilize you during a golf swing.
A few years ago, GolfDigest published this article specifically targeting exercise programs for golfers – and strengthening your core muscles was very important. According to the author, utilizing his golf exercise program three times per week will not only help rid you of pain, but also help improve your golf swing!
How about a massage? Did you know there were massages geared specifically for golfers? Not only that, the massage therapist actually massages you with…wait for it…golf balls! These types of massages, like the ones from SPABallMassage.com, make the following claims:
“Remarkably therapeutic, deeply relaxing, and essential to help golfers stay flexible and injury free. It combines smooth compression strokes with the therapist’s hands and forearms, deep trigger point and cross-fiber work with the SPAball Kaddy™ and golf ball, as well as performing essential stretches that every golfer needs to stay in top form.”
Now, I’ve never received one of these types of massages, but I’m definitely willing to give it a try! The bottom line is back pain is a reality for half of the golfers out there – and we weekend hacks are at even higher risk. At the very least, stretching before the round can help. But working in some sort of exercise – especially one that targets your core – can not only help you be pain free, but also can help your game to boot.
As always, check with your doctor before implementing any stretching or exercise routine. But in the end, staying healthy can allow you to play this game well past retirement age – I know that’s my goal!