Golf is a popular hobby for many people across the world, and it becomes even more popular as many near retirement age. While it may seem that a day out on the course is nothing but relaxing, it can actually have many negative effects on your spinal health.
Golf is repetitive in nearly every aspect of the game. You are swinging the golf club the same way each and every time, bending over to set up each tee shot, and constantly throwing the bag over your shoulder and walking from hole to hole with your center of gravity thrown off.
These repetitive motions might not seem like much by themselves, but after they are done time after time, they can lead to a number of spinal issues, including repetitive motion disorder, muscle and tendon strains, and disc problems. These injuries can not only be debilitating themselves but can lead to other issues as well, such as the chronic use of pain medication.
Golf Injuries that can Arise from Overuse
When it comes to golf, one of the biggest causes of back pain stems from the golf swing itself. To play well, especially when driving off the tee, you are required to generate a lot of torque and power with the swing. However, it is also important to be smooth with the swinging motion. If you do not have proper form, you can easily injure your spine and the muscles and ligaments surrounding it.
The spine is placed in a vulnerable alignment when it performs twisting movements, and a golf swing is a perfect example of this. It is important to use your shoulders, hips, and back in conjunction with one another to divide the load and not overstress any part of the body. If your swing is even just slightly incorrect, it can place a huge stress load on the vertebrae and muscles in the lower back and neck.
The lowest joint in the spine, the disc between the lowest lumbar vertebra and the sacrum, can be especially vulnerable to spinal injury. This joint allows for a higher amount of rotation than the other lower back joints. Because of this, over-torquing the spine can result in this joint becoming worn down or stressed, leading to back pain with a variety of movements, even those outside of golf.
The muscles in the lower back and neck can also easily become strained with a golf swing. Since each swing requires you to generate a high amount of force very quickly, it can result in a whiplash-like motion. This can place strain on the muscles throughout the back, especially in the neck area, leading to muscle strains, sprains, or tears.
The repetitive motion of carrying a golf bag can also be stressful on the spine. This is due to the carrying itself as well as the motion used to sling the bag onto the shoulder. Oftentimes, golf bags are picked up with poor lifting form, resulting in a large amount of pressure being placed on the lower back. Over time, this can lead to degenerating or herniated discs.
The straps and weight of the bag can also cause issues while walking the course. These straps can place high amounts of stress on the trapezius muscle on top of the shoulder and cause the spine to bend to the side for extended periods of time. The spine is most functional in its neutral position, and it can withstand forward flexion and backward extension fairly well, but being bent to the side places it in an unstable and vulnerable position. This can make you more susceptible to muscle strains, degenerating discs, and other spinal issues.
Managing Golf Injuries
Golf injuries, such as repetitive motion disorder and muscle strains, are often treated with pain medication. While prescriptions may seem like a simple short-term fix to alleviate the pain, nothing except for time or corrective procedures will allow your back to fully heal.
By putting treatment off, you increase the risk for further injury and are often forced to use pain medication for prolonged periods of time. Many of the commonly prescribed drugs are highly addictive in nature, which can lead to dependency issues, and the drugs may feel less effective over time, increasing overall pain levels.
Golf is a classic sport and provides a great way to be outside, get some exercise, and spend time with friends and colleagues. However, playing the game correctly is critical for your health and wellbeing, especially when it comes to your spine. It is important to ensure that you are using correct form and posture with your swing and that you are not over swinging, which can cause strain on the muscles and joints in the back.
Also, if you prefer to carry your bag from hole to hole to get extra exercise, it is good practice to use a bag with dual shoulder straps. This design can help balance out the forces placed through the shoulders and back, limiting wear and tear and reducing the risk for injury.