How to Play Golf With Back Pain

If you've experienced long-term or even lifelong back problems and back surgeries, you may be familiar with the saying: "There are two kind of golfers...those with back problems and those that are gonna have back problems." However, this doesn't mean that you have to give up your love of golf. There are workarounds that will still enable you to cope with your back pain and play golf.

The steps outlined in this article will help you whether you have a 'bad back' or after-back surgeries. And obviously, you'll also need your doctor's approval before playing golf post back pain or operation.


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    Stretch regularly and warm up before each game. This is a very important step. Always stretch your back muscles to help prevent further injury and to loosen your back. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist for suitable stretching exercises that will continue to strengthen your back and for specific exercises that you can implement prior to a game. Some stretching that may be suitable includes:[1]
    • Stretch the shoulder and torso: Hold a golf club behind your neck and shoulders grasping both ends of the club with your hands and rotate your torso gently from side to side. Do this a few times.
    • Stretch the hips: Pull one knee to your chest. Drop gently and then pull the other knee to your chest. Repeat a few times.
    • Stretch the hamstrings: Bend over and try to touch your toes. Don't go further than you can or you may cause more problems and only do this if your physical therapist has approved the move. Flexible hamstrings are important to enable better hip motion and to reduce pressure on the lower back discs.[1]
    • Easy, gentle swings will help you to warm up before the game; practice some before beginning each game.
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    Club up. When you have back pain, you'll need to accept that you will lose some power. Help yourself out by 'clubbing up' one or two clubs.
    • When practicing, start with small irons and work up to large wood. This eases the muscle groups into gradual warming up.[1]
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    Ease back into the game with some basic practice. Spend a little time practicing at a drive range to put yourself in sync. This may feel repetitive but it will help your body to slowly regain the required movements and your muscle memory will restore sooner with easier moves.
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    When addressing the ball, it is recommended that you change your stance a little when you're working from a back back. Aim to stand 2-3 inches (5-7.5cm) closer to the ball than you previously stood. This positioning will give you a better center of gravity and it helps you to turn your hips easily.
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    Start your back swing by moving your hips simultaneously with your hands and club. Bend your left knee (if you're right handed, opposite if left handed) a little more to allow your hips to turn further.
    • To prevent back pain at any time, golf players should aim for smooth swings. Aim to gently rotate the shoulder, hip, chest and lower spine at the same time, so that all these parts of the body share the load.[1]
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    Take special precautions when using downswing. The problems really start on the downswing for people with back pain. Most golfers initiate their downswing with the hips, but when you can't torque your hips as much, they get way ahead of your hands. To avoid this, start your downswing with your hands moving slowly, and then engage your hips to blast through the ball.
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    Avoid twisting around at all times. While golf swings naturally create torsion (twisting), don't twist right around when swinging and certainly don't twist around to observe – move your whole body instead to see where the ball has gone. And be aware that you don't have to twist your body around to finish in a perfect pose. Just make sure to finish with the club high. Over your head is fine.
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    Don't push yourself too hard. If you can only manage a few holes initially, that is better than none. Listen to your body as you're moving around the course and take a break when you need to.
    • Remember to carry all golf items with care, especially the golf bag. You can undo a whole day's careful golf playing with poor bag carrying! Avoid repeated bending over to collect the bag by using a wheeled stand that keeps the bag upright or a rolling cart bag. If you're carrying a bag on your shoulders, make sure that it has two straps to evenly distribute the weight.[2]


  • Working with a golf instructor or professional might be a good idea if your golf isn't smooth enough.
  • Take along some hot or cold packs to apply to your back if it starts to hurt. If these don't help (along with a rest), then finish the game for the day and return when your back feels stronger again.
  • You might also look at icing your back before and after play to minimize inflammation.
  • Tell your playing partners about your back pain and the fact that you're compensating for it. Don't put them off partnering up with you; just let them know that you'll probably be a little slowly and more cautious than perhaps they remember you to have been before!
  • What may come as a surprise to most golfers is that due to the various stops and natural waiting periods during a round of golf, we are standing still approx. 70% of the time we spend playing 18 holes. It is considerably more tiring standing still than it is walking. It is therefore the time standing still, which creates tiredness in feet and legs. The golf insoles[3] are reducing this tiredness due to the fact that the variable hydraulic pressure in the insoles has a powerful influence on the energy supply to the feet and the legs. This lower degree of tiredness will lead to a greater concentration during the actual play.
  • For some, swimming exercises may also help. Speak to your physical therapist about the options. Daily walking of around 30-40 minutes is beneficial for your back too.[4] Body weight squats are also excellent for your core and lower back muscles.


  • If you have back pain, always get checked out by your doctor and get their approval before playing any sport. Golf can be very grueling on your back, so taking these extra precautions to reduce your chance of back injury is vital for full and sustained recovery.
  • There are many golf stretch videos available online. While these may be helpful, it is still very important to get approval for them from your physical therapist monitoring your case.

Things You'll Need

  • Driving range
  • Stretching exercises
  • Golf clubs of higher numbers

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