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Prevent lower back pain golfing? Is that possible?

Prevent lower back pain golfing?  Is that possible?

Would you like to prevent lower back pain golfing? If you’re like 28% of the golfing population and suffer low back pain after every round, you might think it sounds a tall order.  It might be.  It depends on 2 things.  How long you’ve had low back pain.  And how much effort you’re willing to put into solving it.  Practising osteopathy in Edinburgh for 27 years, I’ve met a lot of golfers.  And so, I have a lot of experience of golfers with back pain.

Your ability to prevent lower back pain golfing depends how long you’ve had it

If you’ve only had it for a couple of weeks, this will be a lot easier than if you’ve had it for years.  Why?  Because your nervous system has a nasty habit of learning things.  It learns movement patterns, which is great if those are good movement patterns.  Not so good if they’re bad ones. It also learns pain.  The longer you’ve had pain, the more likely it is that you’ve developed something called Central sensitization.  This is where you Central Nervous System becomes overly sensitive and generates continued pain, even in the absence of injury.  Chronic pain is widely regarded as pain that lasts beyond its usefulness.

Your swing is something you’ve learned and has become automatic.  Overcoming that is difficult.  It’s possible that if you’re used to pain during or after playing, you may have learned that too.  But don’t worry, just as you can change your swing, so you can prevent lower back pain golfing.

Preventing lower back pain golfing also depends on how much effort you put in

I often say to golfers that “This is 80% your effort and 20% mine.”  It’s important to understand that osteopaths do not fix backs.  You fix your own back.  And you make it stronger. And your actions determine whether you re-injure it or not. I know we’d all like someone else to do the work for us.  But it just doesn’t work that way.  Take it from me… It was only when I started following my own advice that I solved my own recurring Lumbar 4/5 disc herniation. Many osteopaths and one chiropractor had tried.  But treatment doesn’t fix, it just helps. And the best clinicians are teachers (note the original derivation of the word “doctor” is from the Latin docere = to teach).

If you put in the work, you will reap the benefits.  If you cover up the pain with painkillers and try to battle on, you will probably never improve. Remember, the purpose of pain is a biological alarm system.  Covering it up just makes it more sensitive.

How to do it

Accept full responsibility

Your back pain / sciatica is your problem.  It’s not mine.  As an osteopath, I’m very keen to help you, but ultimately if you want to get better and stay better, you have to commit. Remember that 60% of lower back pains recur within a year.  That’s because people don’t change what they do.  If you want a different result, you have to do different things.

Stop making it worse

The first thing is to find the things that make your back pain worse.  Then stop doing them (unfortunately this may include golf).  At least for now.  You need to give your lower back time to heal and to become less sensitive.  To put it bluntly… If you want your back to get better, stop doing things that make it worse! Don’t worry, this isn’t forever.

Move more, hurt less

I’m not saying “Do nothing“.  Far from it.  You should do as much movement as possible that doesn’t make your pain any worse.  This is summed up by our number 1 rule: “Use it or lose it, but Don’t abuse it.”  Movement is really important to bring fresh oxygenated blood into the area.  Without movement, inflammation builds up and muscles weaken.  You’ll be more stiff after inactivity, and probably more sore too.  So don’t do nothing.

On the other hand, as noted above, avoid things that increase your pain.   If you’re aggravating it, it’s not going to get better.

Moving more may mean walking, dancing, swimming, yoga, etc.  Basically any movement that does NOT increase your pain is a good thing.

Follow a tailor-made rehab program

This may include some hands-on treatment, but that may not be necessary.  What is certainly necessary is being sure what you are aiming for.  Is it 18 pain-free holes once a week, twice a week, four times a week?  Whatever your goal is, we need to be clear about it from the beginning.  We always ask people what their goal is.  Without clarity on this issue, you may manage to get pain-free for a little while.  But if we don’t know what you need your back to be able to do, we won’t prepare it for that.  So get clear on your aims.

You also need to know where you’re starting from. What do I mean by this?  It’s worth quantifying how much pain-free movement you have in different directions.  It’s also worth noting which movements hurt and which don’t.  This may not be immediately obvious, due to delayed pain.  But don’t worry, we can help you work this out.  Part of the approach we take is to determine whether your back dislikes bending forwards or backwards.  Or, perhaps it makes no difference.  Of the last 800+ low back pain people we’ve seen, 72% are worse for sitting and bending forwards.  Knowing this informs which exercises we prescribe as well as which movements to avoid.

You may need to alter your daily movement patterns and postures.  You may need to alter your golf swing… I know, nightmare!  As you know, there are a lot of moving parts in a golf swing. Understanding how the whole swing is impacting your back, and how it is aggravating your pain is part of the art of what we do.

What do we do?

Check out what a back pain clinic for golfers could be like, by clicking the link.  And if you’d like to arrange to see an osteopath specialising in how to prevent lower back pain and sciatica in golfers, you can book an osteopathy for golfers appointment online.

About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh, and is currently working on a new book. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.

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