Golf and Back Pain: Why It Happens and Solutions

by Eric Bostrom June 17, 2022 5 min read

Golf and Back Pain: Why It Happens and Solutions

Golf is an excellent leisure time activity for many reasons. Not only is it a chance to get out there with your buddies and have a good time, but you’re outdoors and staying active, too.

Some might scoff at golf because of its relatively slow pace, but that’s exactly what’s so relaxing about it. Plus, you have the option of getting plenty of walking in while engaging in healthy competition or releasing your frustrations out whenever you hit the ball. 

What many don’t realize is the potential for injury that comes with golf. Yes, despite what you might think, golf-related injuries can and do happen.

When you think about the mechanics of a golf swing, wherein the lower body stays relatively planted while the upper body rotates forcefully, you can start to see where injuries might happen. 

Specifically, the L5-S1 discs in your spine see the majority of stress during a golf swing, as these are the discs that are able to rotate. The other discs in your lower back are primarily for flexion and extension. For those under 55, the L5-S1 and L4-5 discs - the two lowest disc in the lower back - are culprit 95 percent of the time. 

The lumbar spine has very little in the way of rotation movement. Its total rotational degrees are around 13 from top to bottom, according to renowned physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann. Each individual segment has around 2 degrees of rotation.

Here, I’ll answer some questions about golf and its relation to back pain.  After explaining why and how we get hurt playing golf, I’ll walk you through some very simple steps to reduce – or even prevent – back pain.  

golf and back pain solutions

Why does my back hurt when I play golf?

The most common golf-related back injury is muscle strains, but inflammation is also common. On a more extreme level, muscles can get separated from tendons, and disc injuries can also occur. 

Why does this happen? Well, when else in life are you making repeated forceful rotational movements beginning at your toes and ending at your head?

Not taking the time to properly warm-up is a common reason. “It’s just golf,” they say. You’re not exerting much energy, right? Wrong. Jumping right in and repeatedly swinging that driver as hard as you can is a sure-fire way to hurt yourself. 

Another, less obvious, reason is swing mechanics. If you’re swinging the club wrong, not only does your shot suffer, but your body is being put through unnecessary stress. 

Don’t forget your golf bag! Repeatedly lifting your golf bag is one thing, but also repeatedly wearing it over the same shoulder is another. Make sure you’re lifting correctly and also distributing weight evenly. We’ll cover all these topics below.

Is it OK to play golf with lower back pain?

Of course not. Pain is a signal something is wrong with the body. Playing through it will just make things worse. The body doesn’t magically heal itself by continuing the activity causing it to pain in the first place. 

If you experience lower back pain, catching it early and seeking medical advice is the best path forward. Sure it’ll be annoying and aggravating to cut your game short for the day. 

Still, proper treatment could mean getting back on the green quickly instead of taking the short-term gain and playing through it, only to suffer from a more extended recovery period later. 

How do I stop my back from hurting when I play golf?

Warm-up: Just as we do with any other physical activity, putting in a proper warmup before you begin swinging the clubs in earnest is very important. It signals to our body that we’re about to put in some work, and it gets our joints and muscles primed for action.

Start with gentle stretches from the shoulders to the hamstrings. You can warm up the shoulders and torso by holding a golf club behind your neck and gently rotating side to side. Knee hugs are a great way to get your hips activated, and the classic reach for the toes will give a nice hamstring stretch. 

From there, some light swings with the clubs will activate the different muscle groups you use during golf. Don’t aim for the driver right away; start with the smaller clubs and work your way up. If this sounds like it will take a lot of time, consider getting to the greens earlier.  

Practice your swing: I’ll admit I’m not the one you want to take advice from when it comes to the finer details of golf swing technique. I’ll leave that for the professionals.

However, I do know a fluid swing is a goal for any golfer. This allows the shoulders, pelvis, and thoracolumbar region of the body to rotate and generate a good swing.

Meanwhile, with your knees bent, weight on the balls of your feet, and a straight spine, you’re putting yourself in as good a position as possible to protect yourself from injury. 

golf and back pain solutions with Backmate

What's the best solution for back pain from golf? 

Practicing proper form is fundamental in golf, just as it is with any sport. However, you’re probably reading this because you already have back pain related to golfing and want to know what to do for relief. 

The answer is simple – the Backmate. Clearly, I’m biased, but the Backmate was tailor-made to relieve the back pain that comes from golfing.

With all the force generated during a drive, when you add a rotation, it can do a number on your lumbar and thoracic spine ranging from LBP and sciatica symptoms to shoulder and neck discomfort.

Factor in the amount of force you can generate from your hips and legs, the benefit of a post-golf therapy session with the Backmate is as crucial as ever. 

With the Backmate, you can easily target every section of your back by simply moving its position within a door frame. Rotate the rollers as needed and roll away the pain and discomfort from the standing position, muscles relaxed. 

This is important because the traditional method of laying on your back and rolling with other devices activates various back muscles – it’s hard to provide relief to the lumbar or thoracic spine when it’s being activated. 

Of course, there are so many ways to relieve and roll away hip and leg strain with the Backmate, too. This includes placing the rollers in places, and at angles that traditional rollers struggle with. 

The Backmate Therapy Program is a great way to not only overcome golf-related aches and pains, but also increase range of motion and correct muscle imbalances such as tight shoulders and chest muscles that may be holding back your game. 

For more, visit our video series on the Backmate Therapy Program on YouTube

Golf is supposed to be relaxing, even therapeutic. But like any physical activity, you can hurt yourself doing it. While I’m a firm believer in getting out there and being active, I’m also an advocate for doing it right and treating yourself to proper massage therapy after. 

When it comes to golf-related pains, I can’t think of a better tool for relief than the Backmate. It’s the ability to target every muscle group golfers often injure, making it perfect as a partner in recovery. 

As always, I’m yours in good health.


Eric Bostrom
Eric Bostrom