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Fitness Friday

Back spasms? These 2 exercises will help you play pain-free golf

September 08, 2023

Chris Condon

Golfers experience all sorts of panic—first-tee anxiety, playing with the boss, watching an errrant shot heading toward a house—but one of the worst is experiencing back spasms in the day or hours before a round of golf that you really want to play.

There are several things you can do to make sure you, at least, have a chance of getting through the round. A hot shower or heat packs can help. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen sodium or ibuprofen help calm things down. Even walking gives you a better chance of being able to play.

Your breathing matters

There also are some floor-based exercises that can help, says Golf Digest Certified Fitness Trainer Ann-Kristin Allen, who works with golfers in Austin. Allen has dealt with clients' back issues for decads at her gym and says the key is to gently improve range of motion without pushing past the moment you feel pain.

"Pay attention to breathing, too," she says. "Breathe in and out of your nose, five seconds of inhaling and five seconds exhaling. This type of breathing will increase the CO2 level and is known to induce muscle relaxation. Be patient and relax as much as possible as you're doing these moves, as it can take 10 minutes to calm the nervous system's nocieptors, which are the receptors that make you feel pain."

2 exercises to help

To release spasms and quiet an angry low back, start with the physio-ball exercise Allen demonstates in the video below. Then when you start to feel better, move on to lumbar-sacral opening stretch.

For the first exercise, Allen says to "slowly move the ball side to side with your feet, while stabilizing the upper body with your arms out to the sides."

For the second, "lie on your back and bring one leg at a time toward your chest, holding them at the knees. Make sure your knees are slightly outside the width of the hips, feet everted and elbows toward the floor. Keep your spine flat and pull both knees at the same time more toward your chest. As your pelvis starts to roll up, push the sacrum (bottom of the spine) to the floor while keeping the knees still. Hold for 30 seconds, gently release and repeat three times," she says.

Watch her demonstrate by clicking on the video below. And for more on Golf Digest's new Fitness Trainer Certification program, click here.