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Even the prettiest pro golf swing can do ugly things to the lower back.
Even the prettiest pro golf swing can do ugly things to the lower back. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)

Unhappy couple: Golf and the back may fight, but you can find harmony

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor

Most golfers experience back pain at some point during their career. Myrtle Beach Chiropractor Chris Garner has treated his share of golfers and offers his advice on how to save your back.

Even the top golf touring professionals with the prettiest, most fluid swings the human form can generate are susceptible to back problems.

For the rest of us duffers - with our abnormal twisting, awkward balance, spine angle - the prospect of a harmonious spine and a regular golf habit is practically impossible.

Dr. Chris Garner, chiropractor at Grand Strand Health and Wellness (www.GrandStrandChiropractic.com or tel. 843-357-WELL) in Myrtle Beach, sees plenty of golfers come in each year. One startling statistic he has come across in his research among golfers is this: 77 percent of pro golfers experience back pain at some point, according to a recent survey.

"Our bodies are meant for pure motion," said Garner, referring to the motion of forward-to-back, side-to-side and twisting. Combining any of these motions creates "shear force" on the 26 vertebrae in your spine, which can lead to problems, and the golf swing is practically impossible without creating this force.

"Whenever you put sheer force on a disk that combines two or more motions, it basically shreds your disk."

Try and visualize that the next time you rear back for a little extra on your drive.

And while pro golfers do their best to create a repeatable, healthy swing they can perform hundreds of times a day, the amateur player stands to encounter more problems, even if they're not banging as many range balls.

"If these (PGA Tour) players possess great swing mechanics and posture and still suffer from pain, look at the average player with less than good mechanics," noted Garner.

"They're going to be prone to higher risk."

It all boils down to a simple fact: The human body just isn't made to hit a golf ball properly. But for most golfers, that's probably not enough to keep you off the golf course.

Stretches to protect your spine on the golf course

For those with a back healthy enough for golf, Garner offers a lot of preventive care suggestions to his patients. He starts by providing a list of 10 stretches that cater to the stresses of the golf swing (you can find a complete list of "peak energy" stretches on the GrandStrandChiropractic.com Web site).

And while he won't be giving you any specific swing tips himself, he recommends getting your swing looked at by a professional who can help tune your swing to put less stress on your spine. One of Garner's favorite teachers he commonly refers patients to is Jim Fellner, director of golf at the Long Bay Club in the Myrtle Beach area.

"If a golfer can have solid mechanics, good posture, our shoulders at the right height, you'll be a lot less susceptible to injury," said Garner.

And before you give too much attention to your back, look to your feet. Garner said by investing in a pair of foot stabilizers, which can be fitted at a doctor's office by analyzing where the weight is in your feet during the swing, you can not only prevent back pain, but add 3-5 m.p.h. to your swing speed, which may result in up to 10 extra yards off the tee.

Another specialty the Grand Strand Health and Wellness has introduced with great success is the ProAdjuster, which is a NASA-inspired computer that measures a spine's precise levels of motion. Once you've been analyzed, treatment is then delivered by the doctor based on analysis results, and gentle treatment is applied to the discovered problem areas.

Other options for treatment include the use of ultrasound, traction, cables, hydro-therapies and massage. Disc compression therapy is another method that has an 82 percent success rate of curing problems.

Back pain may be a threat as long as players are on the links, but care and prevention methods continue to get more advanced - all in the name of being able to whack that little white ball.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • comment

    Kristie Abruzzo wrote on: Mar 15, 2013

    Great article! It is also good to look at how products can help and we suggest a support product that provides the right amount of compression and stays in place during any type of activity.


  • Cure to golfer's pains

    Gerry LeBlanc wrote on: Aug 31, 2010

    Look up the Peak Performance Golf Swing at http://www.peakperformancegolfswing.com/ if you want to minimize back pain while golfing.


  • The real cause of pain is not structural

    Adam Heller wrote on: Jul 16, 2010

    Years of helping my Rapid Pain Cure clients heal themselves has shown that the cause of back pain has noting to do with how you swing a club. The real cause of almost all persistent or recurrent back pain is psychological. The pain is real and very intense. However the cause originates in the brain. Every athlete I have assisted has healed their pain, usually in a couple of hours. Structural abnormalities such as bulging disks or herniated disks almost never cause pain. Study after study shows 2 out of 3 people who have never had pain have either bulges at one or more levels or herniated disks. Yet never had pain. When you understand the real cause of your pain you can permanently banish the pain very, very fast. If your professional will not guarantee your pain disappears, try someone else.
    Adam Heller


      • RE: The real cause of pain is not structural

        Chris wrote on: Apr 24, 2012

        Having herniated a disc twice in the last 2 years, I can tell you the herniated discs caused the pain. You may be able to block pain receptors and all that, but if the disc is out of place the best thing to do is physical therapy to get it back in place. Why do you think professional athletes are often out several weeks with a herniated disc if they could cure their pain symptoms in a couple hours and put off therapy til the end of the season?


      • RE: The real cause of pain is not structural

        Frak wrote on: Dec 14, 2011

        Please help me I cannot walk at times because of my back pain.


  • Chiropractor Norcross ga

    Chiropractor Norcross ga wrote on: Mar 31, 2010

    Treatment/Therapy for Chiropractor really work well for musculoskeletal problems and nerve related problems. Though this method working well your chiropractor should be an experienced and registered also with govt. approved association. Chiropractors are available locally you can found one of them nearby you.
    Chiropractor Norcross ga


      • RE: Chiropractor Norcross ga

        Rod wrote on: Aug 31, 2010

        As long ago as I can remember I have had a bad back! When 18 and in the United States Marines boot camp I along with many others were running carrying a telephone pole. Because I was 6' 2" I carried more than the guy ahead of me and the guy behind me. My back was bad back then.
        When I went to work when I got out of the service I used the father of one of my fellow employees for 25 years as my cyropractor. When he retired I used another cyropractor for another 20 years. The last told me there was nothing further he could do for me.
        I had surgery, lumbar 4 and the problem went away.
        If you have never had a herniated disk, cyropractor or not I can say, I believe you are wrong.
        In the old days they used to send me to a shrink because I had back problems, well I believe times have changed. Also in the old days orthopedic doctors did not believe in cyropractors. Like I say times have changed and so has medicine.
        After my operation I am back to normal.


  • Active Stretching

    Tom Carter wrote on: Feb 3, 2009

    Warming up to play golf should also include active stretches which will allow the back and supporting muscles to warm up and prepare for that first tee shot.


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