by Sean Phillips, PT, DPT, OCS

Golf is one of the most popular recreational activities in America, with approximately over 25 million players country-wide. One of the most appealing aspects of golf is the ability to continue playing well into our 60s, 70s, and even 80s, but although the sport may not seem as physically demanding as others, injuries can be quite common. Losing the ability to play golf due to back pain can be very frustrating, but there has been research into rehabilitation in order to return to the sport quickly as well as prevention strategies to reduce the risk of reinjury. In an article by Christopher Finn, MSPT, CSCS, TPI CGMP, these concepts are reviewed and discussed.

As people age, the spine’s mobility and ability to absorb forces decreases. This can lead to lower back pain (lumbar pain) which has been attributed to approximately 1/3 of all golf injuries. The majority of these injuries are caused by the repetitive motions of the golf swing over time instead of one traumatic event, and are more likely to occur if muscular imbalances or poor swing mechanics exist. These injuries can include muscular strains, facet joint inflammation, spondylosis, disc herniation, and even stress fractures of the ribs.

The treatment of these issues usually benefits from a multidisciplinary approach involving both Physical Therapy to assess muscular imbalances and weakness, and PGA pros to assess flaws in swing mechanics. Physicians may also order medical imaging for further diagnosis, prescribe medication, or utilize cortisone injections to help reduce pain in the short-term.

Physical Therapy has been shown to be very effective in treating low back pain and other injuries in golfers. During someone’s time in physical therapy, they can expect to receive screening and treatment to restore muscular balance throughout the body. These include:

  • Core stabilization exercises
  • Spinal mobility and range of motion assessment
  • Diaphragmatic breathing techniques
  • Muscular flexibility training
  • Hip, trunk and shoulder strengthening
  • Transversus abdominis and multifidus activation

Since the body works in unison throughout a golf swing, it is difficult to say any one exercise is the most important. Muscle groups are constantly activating while others are simultaneously turning off, all while the joints and muscles require the proper mobility and flexibility to freely move through their required range of motion during the swing. Therefore, it is beneficial to have a professional identify these areas of limitations in order to develop a personalized plan for recovery and reduce the risk of injury in the future.

If you are interested in reducing your low back pain while golfing or would like to learn of any muscular imbalances that could be affecting your game, physical therapy may be a great option for you! The therapists at Physical Therapy First have an extensive background in treating orthopedic and sports injuries of all kinds, and are able to dedicate the one-on-one treatment time that you deserve to get you to where you want to be.


Christopher Finn, MSPT, CSCS, TPI CGMP. Rehabilitation of Low Back Pain in Golfers: From Diagnosis to Return to Sport. In Sports Health. July/August 2013. Vol. 5. No. 4. Pp. 313-319