Vernon physiotherapist Cheryl Witter from North End Spine and Sport Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy has created some pointers for golfers to help avoid early-season pains. (Contributed)

Vernon physiotherapist Cheryl Witter from North End Spine and Sport Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy has created some pointers for golfers to help avoid early-season pains. (Contributed)

COLUMN: Swing away from back pain during Okanagan golf season

Vernon physio Cheryl Witter offers up tips to help keep away early-season pains



Low back pain and golf. It’s an important issue to deal with.

A total of 36 per cent of novice golfers, and more than 63 per cent of serious golfers, are playing with back pain. The twisting action of the golf swing is the most common cause of back strain. When you think of it , there are not many things we do in daily life that involves twisting excessively. Inserting the golf swing after you have been curled up on the couch all winter is a recipe for back pain.

Maybe you were keeping fit at the gym and ski hill. But the “twisting-type-of-fit?” Probably not. So now you are going to hit the links and twist more than 100 times, three times a week. Yikes. No wonder physiotherapists, chiropractors and massage therapists stay busy with golfers!

So what happens to make your back sore other than the fact you haven’t done any “twists and shouts “ since last fall? The main reason is stiff, jammed, rusty joints. We call it “Mechanical Back Pain.”

Think of your back like a car. Sometimes things don’t work smoothly and properly. Each time you swing the club the jammed joints want to move , but they can’t. They become irritated and inflamed. The muscles react by going into spasm. You may feel a sharp pain, dull ache or stiffness in the small of your back. Often pain can even radiate into the butt and down the back of the leg. Best not to be stubborn with this.

If ignored, you will start to change your swing, be hesitant, shorten your back swing or change your approach to the ball as you expect pain. Your swing isn’t as smooth, natural and well-lubed as it should be.

So what can be done about your pesky low back? Best to deal with it now as spring has sprung.

Find your favorite health care professional that deals in manual therapy and rehab. Some hands-on treatment by your “Body Mechanic” is what your body needs. Tune-up time to restore your normal low back joint and muscle mechanics. Then it’s your turn. Here are some tips to help you become an active participant:


Spend 10 minutes before you leave the house to stretch. You need to prepare your body for the 18 holes you are about to ask it to do. By stretching and warming up correctly, you can decrease your risk of injury and alleviate joint stiffness. Don’t push your back past it’s comfort zone. If you want a fluid, easy swing you have to tease the back joints and muscles into that range you require. There are many ways to stretch for golf. I like to keep it simple. Then you golfers at least will do them.

Strengthen Your Core

A strong core is just as important as achieving and maintaining good spinal twisting motion. The power of the swing comes from our abdominal and hip muscles. We have those six-pack abs which make us look good without a shirt on. But the more important golf muscles are the oblique muscles – the side tummy muscles that create “the twist.” The stronger your core, the more you are able to have a composed swing repetitively. Also, be sure to strengthen your hips and glutes, the core is more than abs!

Don’t Try to Play Like a Pro

Start slowly. Pace yourself. It’s a long season. Don’t play back-to-back days early in the season. Have rest days inserted between golf days. Overexerting will cause soreness and setbacks. Assess your fitness level and the amount of time you think your body can safely handle. Save your 36-hole days for later in the season.

Cheryl Witter is a Vernon physiotherapist and the owner of Spine and Sports North End Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy

READ MORE: COLUMN: SPINE AND SPORT: Small muscle, big pain

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Cheryl Witter/Spine and Sport

Cheryl Witter/Spine and Sport