Low Back Or Leg Pain Forcing You To Use The Golf Cart…Leaving You Feeling Old and Embarrassed

Golf cart because of low back or leg pain

To cart or not to cart? That is the golf question. Or a choice?  If you have ever found yourself considering this question because of low back or leg pain, then you may be experiencing a condition where the golf cart may feel better temporarily. This may make your problem worse in the long run if you don’t know how to manage it.

Golf cart because of low back or leg pain

As we age, our choices that revolve around our physicality diminishes. Many individuals choose to pick up golf because they can play it into their golden years. However, I bet you realize, even the game of golf can be brutally honest. And golf is the true test of low back honesty…

Are you forced to take the golf cart instead of walking? We hear this all the time from new clients and it usually is NOT a choice. It can be the emotional dagger to your ego, especially when your friends do not need it. Is that you? There is nothing worse than being left behind or “feeling different” than your friends. And on top of it, being the butt of all jokes every time because you have to take the cart versus walking.

Why Do You feel Low Back or Leg Pain?

All emotions aside… Do you have pain, not only in the dead center of your back but, does it travel down to your knees or even YOUR feet?! Do you have leg weakness that you can’t put your finger on? Are your legs going numb in certain areas? Do your symptoms come and go, and get worse after a long golf round of 18 holes. Are you afraid you are doing serious and permanent damage? We see this a lot and with the right guidance, these symptoms can be reduced… if not fixed.

If you have read this far, then this blog is exactly what you need. Individuals who love golf and have low back pain tend to see a lot of information on “disc bulges”, “disc herniation”, “degenerative disc disease”, or “lumbar fractures”. Not many are aware of a term called “stenosis”, which is simply a narrowing of a passage. In this case your spine canals! It is very common in individuals over 50 and not a foreign term for the team at Level4. Stenosis can happen in the low back in the central or lateral canals where the spinal cord and nerve roots travel, respectively.  And it will cause low back or leg pain, or even both concurrently.

Why Do They Walk Hunched Over?

Have you ever wondered why you or your friends fold over at the trunk while walking? For some, it’s simply bad posture for others they notice a real difference in their symptoms! The feeling comes back in their legs. The electric or shooting pain down their leg disappears…

A CURE!!! Sort of.

The problem with this is when you play golf, you have to walk like this for 18 holes. That is very difficult and will lead anyone to play much shorter games or take the cart. You may have tried painkillers or muscle relaxants, which do not help your symptoms or your golf game. Typically, we see our prospective clients even being offered spine surgery… and we recommended you be aware of the risks first.  Unless emergent, this should never be the first line answer to the low back or leg pain.

There is another option and that is through specific and individualized physical therapy. Let us explain our approach and key tips you can implement today to give yourself immediate relief to this type of low back or leg pain.

Tip 1: Sitting Is The New Smoking

We said it in a previous last blog and we will say it again… Sitting is the new smoking! It may feel good for your back to sit down but, sitting for a long period of time is terrible for your overall health. Sitting for long periods of time makes you more prone to hip and upper back tightness, not to mention neck and shoulder related issues. This tightness or stiffness will put added stress to your low back, which is made worse when you play golf.

We have all felt it before. We play a round of golf and our back happily reminds us how it feels. If your hips or mid-back do not rotate or move correctly, your low back will take the brunt of it. And if you have spinal stenosis, you will make the symptoms even worse.

Tip 2: The “Curvey” Golfer

No… not the curves your mother gave you. We are talking spinal curves. Click to see a good graphic representation.

We must try and maintain relative normal curvature of the spine because its vital in handling shock absorption in the body. In addition, it makes it difficult to enjoy the great outdoors when you are looking down at your feet. We recommend to all our golfers incorporate pilates into their cross-training because, as Joseph Pilates said, “A person is as young as his spinal column.” A link to our Pilates program is here. Pilates will help you build and maintain strength in your trunk. In addition, Pilates makes you look more confident and can help you play more golf because it will give you the structural integrity and endurance you need.

Tip 3: Extending Into Pain… Don’t Do It

If you truly have central or lateral stenosis in your low back, then you will find extending at the low back is very painful and makes your symptoms worse. Why? It is the structure of the spinal column which has already narrowed but gets even worse when you move into extension. The space, which is where the nerve roots exit, is called the “foraminal canal.” Again, it narrows even more when you go into spinal extension.

How does this affect your golf swing?

At the start of your swing and at the end of the follow-through, the golfer extends at the low back. As seen below, not only is his low back extended but he is rotated which is a double whammy for golfers with low back or leg pain.

So we recommend a person avoid extension based movements until they come in and we assess, to be sure it is safe for you. Then we will provide individual specific exercises to alleviate pain and improve range of motion.  This will help you to get back onto the golf course quickly and safely.

Tip 4: Arm Yourself With Knowledge

The internet is full of information. Good and bad. It is sometimes difficult to find quality information. We recommend you start with our “Low Back Tips Guide” or “Golf Performance Tips Guide.”

There are great tips that you can implement today and take with you anywhere. Our LEVEL4 golf specialists team spent a long time compiling the best information for our clients to save them time, money, and frustration. Enjoy!

Tip 5: Childs Pose

A person with central or lateral stenosis in the lumbar spine will love this exercise. It will alleviate your low back or leg pain.  It’s perfect for when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed. This position will open up your spinal canals and give your nerves the much-needed pressure relief they are screaming at you for. It will decrease your pain and give you comfort.

Here is a secret tip only the yogis know about. Take deep breaths and emphasize on pushing your lower rib cage out to the side. You will utilize your diaphragm and naturally calm all your muscles of your low back.  We recommend you assume the position for at least 30 seconds and then repeat 3-5 times throughout the day.  If you have knee problems, then placing a pillow behind your knees can help relieve this discomfort.

Child's pose stretch

Child’s Pose Stretch


So there you have it. Central or lateral stenosis is not easy to live with but, physical therapy is one of the best options to combat it. Physical therapy will help to guide into a program that will minimize your low back or leg pain. Remember, sitting is the new smoking and do your best to take breaks throughout your day to move. Curves are not only for weight loss but, a healthy spine maintains its natural S-curve. Do not extend into pain or else you may make your back even worse. Knowledge is power and our back and golf guides are a hole in one. I understand the annoyance, agony, and the feeling of defeat a back injury can be. Golf is a beautiful game and one we all want to play into our 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Don’t let a low back injury set you back, and force you to take the golf cart.

Dedicated to your health,

Dr. Oscar Andalon, DPT, STC, MTC, CSCS, SFMA

Latest posts by Oscar Andalon, DPT, STC, MTC, CSCS, CF-L1, MWOD, USAW, FMS/SFMA (see all)

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