Is Golf Bad for Your Back? Tips to Prevent and Manage Pain

Colin McCarthy

is golf bad for your back

Golf is a beloved sport enjoyed by millions, but it’s no secret that it can take a toll on your back. Despite its reputation as a leisurely activity, the golf swing places significant strain on the spine, making back injuries one of the most common ailments among golfers.

If you’re passionate about the game, chances are you’ve felt that familiar twinge after a long day on the course.

While it’s tempting to shrug off the discomfort, understanding the risks and taking preventive measures is crucial. Dr. Jim Suttie, a renowned biomechanics expert, emphasizes that even small adjustments in your swing can make a big difference.

So before you tee off, consider how you can protect your back and prolong your golfing career.

Is Golf Really Bad for Your Back?

Golf can indeed pose risks to your back if proper precautions aren’t taken. The repetitive swinging motion, especially if executed with poor technique, can strain the muscles and ligaments in your back, leading to pain or injury.

The Connection Between Golf and Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a prevalent issue among golfers due to the repetitive nature of the golf swing. The twisting motion and sudden force during the swing can strain the muscles and ligaments in your lower back.

Dr. Sekhon notes that while most low back pain is managed nonsurgically, persistent sciatica or leg weakness might require medical review. If you monitor and adjust your swing technique, you can minimize these risks.

Common Back Injuries Among Golfers

Muscle strains are the most common injuries in golfers, often triggered by improper swing mechanics. These strains typically last a few days and respond well to rest, ice, and over-the-counter medications.

Worse injuries like disc herniations can develop from initial back pain, leading to sciatica within a few days. Dr. Sekhon mentions that high-profile golfers like Tiger Woods have undergone multiple surgeries due to such disc problems.

Statistics indicate that downswing speeds can exceed 100 mph, generating forces over six times your body weight. These significant forces explain why back injuries are rampant in golf.

By limiting the power used on teeoffs and focusing more on technique, you can reduce the impact on your spine.

  • Modify Your Swing: Embrace a hands-and-arm focused swing to reduce body rotation.
  • Lessons and Frequency: Take lessons to refine your technique, aim to play nine holes instead of 18, and consider reducing playing frequency.
  • Strength and Flexibility: Lose excess weight and strengthen your core to provide better support for your back.

How Golf Can Cause Back Injuries

Golf can cause back injuries through several mechanisms:

The Mechanics of a Golf Swing

Golf swings involve complex, repetitive movements that put significant strain on the lower back. Twisting your torso during backswings and downswings generates shear forces on spinal tissues, which can lead to tears.

The rapid rotation and bending inherent in a golf swing compress and stretch spinal discs, potentially causing herniations.

If you’re a golfer, improper swing mechanics can exacerbate these issues, putting increased stress on your spine.

Examples of poor mechanics include an excessively forceful downswing or an overextended backswing. According to Dr. Sekhon, these faulty movements increase the risk of muscle strains, a common injury in golfers.

Disc herniations may start as back pain and progress to sciatica, a condition where nerve pain radiates down the leg. High-profile golfers like Tiger Woods have experienced severe disc problems and undergone multiple surgeries as a result.

Overall Physical Demand of Golf on the Body

Playing golf isn’t limited to swinging a club. It involves walking long distances, carrying or pushing heavy golf bags, and maintaining prolonged postures.

These activities can cause cumulative stress on your back, especially if you lack proper conditioning. Golfers often experience microtraumas in their spine during rounds and practice sessions, which can build up and result in significant injuries over time.

Dr. Scott Lynn, a professor of kinesiology and biomechanics, notes that each swing results in tiny spinal injuries, which accumulate through repeated play.

Addressing strength and flexibility is crucial to reduce the risk. Implementing exercises like deadlifts, squats, and yoga can increase your trunk and lower body stability, helping you withstand the demands of golf.

To mitigate risks, consider taking professional lessons to perfect your swing, using shorter tees to reduce force, and warming up properly before each game. These measures can help you enjoy golf while minimizing the chance of back injury.

Preventing Back Pain While Golfing

Preventing back pain while golfing involves several key strategies:

Best Practices for Golf Swing

Proper technique protects your spine and reduces injury risks. Focus on maintaining a smooth, controlled swing. Avoid sudden, forceful movements.

Reduce your swing power, especially during tee-offs. Use about 70% power. Doing so can help preserve your back. Also, consider taking professional lessons.

A trained instructor can fine-tune your mechanics, ensuring you’re not putting unnecessary strain on your spine.

Additionally, regular stretching and core-strengthening exercises can enhance your flexibility and support for your back. Opt for ergonomic club designs and invest in quality footwear with good arch support.

Stretching and Warm-Up Techniques

Adequate stretching and warm-up routines are vital. Start with dynamic stretches that target the lower back, hips, and shoulders. Examples include torso twists and leg swings.

Follow these with a few warm-up swings, gradually increasing intensity. This preparation helps increase blood flow to your muscles, making them more flexible and less prone to injury.

It’s also important to practice proper swing mechanics. Poor form can place undue stress on your spine. Consult a golf professional to ensure your technique is sound and ergonomically efficient.

Strength Training to Support Back Health

Strengthening exercises are essential for maintaining back health. Focus on building core strength, as strong abdominals support your lower back. Incorporate exercises like planks, leg raises, and bird-dogs into your routine.

These movements improve spinal stability and resilience. Avoid heavy lifting or high-impact activities that could exacerbate back issues.

Additionally, practicing proper swing mechanics and maintaining good posture during your golf game can help prevent unnecessary strain on your back muscles.

Finally, consider regular chiropractic or physical therapy sessions to address any lingering discomfort and ensure optimal back health.

Warm Up Before Swinging

Always warm up before you start swinging a golf club. Perform light cardio activities, like brisk walking or jogging, for 5-10 minutes.

This raises your heart rate and prepares your body for physical activity. Follow with targeted stretches, specifically for your back, legs, and arms. This approach ensures your muscles are ready, reducing the likelihood of strains and sprains.

By integrating these practices proper swing techniques, thorough warm-ups, and targeted strength training you can significantly reduce the risk of back pain while golfing. Staying proactive in your approach helps ensure a pain-free and enjoyable experience on the course.

When to Consult a Doctor

It’s essential to consult a doctor if you experience any of the following concerning symptoms while golfing or engaging in any physical activity:

Signs Your Back Pain May Need Medical Attention

Persistent discomfort might indicate more severe issues if back pain lasts beyond a few days or worsens despite rest and over-the-counter medications.

Acute pain that radiates into your leg or foot, possibly accompanied by numbness or tingling, could suggest sciatica. If you experience weakness in the legs, difficulty walking, or any loss of bladder or bowel control, immediate medical intervention is necessary.

Pay attention to any sharp, shooting pains that occur suddenly during or after a round of golf. These symptoms might necessitate a diagnosis and specialized treatment plan to prevent further injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does golf make sciatica worse?

Yes, golf can exacerbate sciatica due to the strain it places on the lower back. Conditions like ruptured discs and pinched nerves can make swinging a golf club painful, potentially worsening sciatica symptoms.

Who is the golfer that hurt his back?

Golfer Clark experienced back issues during a workout in Scottsdale, Arizona. He had to modify his practice routine to manage the pain and soreness, which affected his ability to perform full swings.

Can you throw out your back playing golf?

Yes, you can throw out your back playing golf due to the sport’s asymmetrical nature and the high force involved. Lack of proper warm-up routines can also increase this risk.

How to golf without hurting your back?

To golf safely, bend from the hips rather than the lower back during your swing. Keep your torso and knees slightly bent, which helps reduce the strain on your lower back.

Why does my back hurt after golfing?

Golfers often experience back pain due to the repetitive and asymmetric nature of the golf swing. This motion places extra stress on the lower back, leading to discomfort and potential injuries.


Golf can pose risks to your back, but with the right precautions, you can enjoy the game while protecting your spine. Focus on proper swing mechanics, regular strength and flexibility exercises, and thorough warm-ups to minimize the risk of injury.

Pay attention to your body’s signals and seek medical advice if you experience persistent or severe back pain. By taking these steps, you can play golf safely and keep your back healthy.

Remember to invest in quality equipment, such as supportive shoes and custom-fitted clubs, to reduce strain on your back. Incorporating these strategies will help ensure a pain-free and enjoyable golfing experience.

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Colin McCarthy

Golf is about mastering your misses and learning from them. I seek answers on the how and why of the golf swing, gaining experience even when answers elude me. With over 11,000 hours of teaching and a hunger for learning, I welcome any questions. My goal is to introduce golf to as many as possible, simplifying the game for all to enjoy. Passionate, eager, and ambitious, I'm here to teach, listen, and learn. LinkedIn

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