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Health & Exercise Forum

Golfing with Lower Back Pain: Part 2 of 2

Apr 14, 2014

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumEvery day someone comes to our office with lower back pain (LBP). Often, the person’s primary complaint is that they cannot perform an important daily activity (work, clean, cook, run) because of back pain. However, no group of patients with lower back pain is more eager to recover and return to unrestricted activity than golfers.

LBP is the most common physical problem for golfers, especially males. The causes of LBP in golfers, especially in the amateur, are many: poor golf swing mechanics, excessive practice, inadequate warm-up and poor flexibility and conditioning. However, the very nature of the golf swing can create great stress on the structures of the lower back. Forward bending while twisting creates excessive torque on the discs, joints, muscles and ligaments of the lower back.


Walk/Ride –

  • Walking – walking an 18 hole golf course is the equivalent of a 5-7 mile walk. It keeps you fit, flexible and avoids the jarring of the bumpy cart. Taking a caddie is optimal. However, carrying your bag requires careful planning. Use a “Sunday bag: or ultra-light bag with a stand and double straps; remove extra balls, unused clubs and umbrellas to lighten the load. Arch your back and extend backwards with the club after every shot. If using a pull cart, push rather than pull, when not walking downhill.
  • Ping Ultra-Light “Sunday” Bag (See Photo 1)
  • Standard Light Bag with stand and double straps (See Photo 2)
  • Cart Riding – sitting is the worst position for the discs in the lower back. Driving the cart and use the steering wheel to support your back can be helpful. Avoid big bumps. Sit with an arch in your lower back and stretch backwards when out of the cart.

Other Tips-

  • Keep Fit and Trim - year round with light to moderate weight training, aerobic exercise, stabilization and flexibility exercises and good nutrition.
  • Core Stabilization Exercises – Abdominal/Core Strengthening can be performed sitting on balance ball or standing on discs while doing biceps curls, shrugs, rows, lats, and leg extension. Contract abdominal muscles and keep balance with using arms and legs.
    • Core Exercises on Ball – Biceps Curls (See Photo 3)
    • Core Exercises on Discs – Biceps Curls (See Photo 4)
    • Core can also be incorporated by using a light resistance band while swing training on level or uneven surfaces.
    • Backswing. Tie a light resistance band (yellow) to a golf club at the top of the grip. slowly release to starting position. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
    • Golf Swing on Discs – Follow-Through same as above for backswing but perform in follow-through motion.
      • Core Exercises – Golf Swing on Discs – Backswing (See Photo 5)

Keep Good Posture – at home, work, and when playing golf keep your shoulders back, low back arched when sitting or standing. Use a towel roll in the small of your lower back when sitting. Extend your spine into throughout the day.

Bend Forward Carefully – bend at hips and knees with one leg ahead of the other when bending to get your ball out of the cup. Let the back leg lift up off the ground as you bend. Suction cups for the end of your putter are available to retrieve your ball from the cup.

Take a Lesson – learn the mechanics of a proper swing for less stress on your lower back from a PGA golf professional. It can make the difference!

Be Smart – Listen to Your Body- If the lower back pain is severe, long lasting or causes radiating pain, tingling or numbness into your legs, consult your family physician to determine the best course of action before you continue playing golf.

MODEL: John Mackarey, Temple University Doctor of Physical Therapy Student

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.