If you have lumbar spinal stenosis, you may be wondering if playing golf is a good idea. If you've had a spinal stenosis surgery, you may even wonder if golf is possible.
The answer for many is yes, but there are a number of considerations to keep in mind.
First, recognize that golfing is not really the best thing for your low back. The golf swing imparts a tremendous amount of stress to your lumbar spine. If you are going to return to golf, be willing to accept that there is some risk of injury to the low back.
That being said, if you do decide to hit the greens, here are several things you can do to help reduce your chances of injury and hopefully enhance your enjoyment of the game:
- When you hit the ball, hit it with about 50 to 75% of the force you would normally use.
- Wear a back brace for support. It will serve as a constant reminder that you have a back problem. It will also keep your lower back warm, which helps keep the muscles and soft tissues loose. The support will also limit the motion of your low back enough to protect it somewhat. You can find options for low back braces at most pharmacies, and you don't need a prescription.
- If the doctor says it’s OK, take ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) about a half hour before playing.
- Warm up carefully and thoroughly with gentle stretching. This will encourage nutrient-rich blood to flow into the muscles in and around your back, which will help protect your lower back against further injury.
- Consider switching your swing to the "natural golf" method, as it will reduce stress on your low back. You may also want to have a few lessons with a golf pro to see if you need to make any adjustments to your golf swing.
- Finally, most doctors stress that if your leg pain or other symptoms flare up, take a break from golf for at least a few weeks and return to gentle strengthening and stretching exercises.
Your overall health, your specific stenosis diagnosis—and, if you've had surgery, the type of stenosis surgery that was performed—will also dictate to some extent if and when you can return to golf. As always, it's important to discuss your individual situation with your doctor.