Golf sciatica is an unfortunate consequence of the game for many professional and amateur players. Golf is a sport known for causing or contributing to back pain, although it is not inherently bad for the spine. The emotional aspects of the game can be just as blame-worthy as the physical facets, since many golfers are perfectionistic about their performances.
This article explores the relationship between golfing and sciatica. We will detail the physical and emotional factors which can cause, perpetuate and exacerbate symptoms in any given patient.
When playing golf, the back is subjected to incredible forces, including constant bending, torsion and torque. While these factors can cause injury, they are generally well tolerated, especially in experienced players whose anatomies have been conditioned over many years.
Casual and occasional players are more prone to sudden structural injury. However, most golf-related back and leg pain is muscular and does not involve any of the spinal structures. In some cases, a golf swing can cause or exacerbate a herniated disc, but this is rare. Typically muscular pulls, strains, tears and other injuries are par for the proverbial course; pardon the pun.
It is always wise to get any acute pain evaluated by your physician to be sure that no serious spinal trauma has been suffered.
Golf can be a stressful game, aggravating already problematic personality tendencies, such as the desire to succeed, perfectionism and self-criticism. Golf can function as the perfect nocebo when the emotional stress becomes too much to bear, necessitating symptoms in a psychosomatic sciatica syndrome.
In these cases, the apparent injury suffered during a golf swing is only perceived and the actual underlying sources of pain are psychological issues enacting regional ischemia in the back, legs or feet. This is one of the most common occurrences for patients who develop pain while playing or shortly after finishing a round on the course. Dr. John Sarno details this back pain trigger phenomenon in many of his literary works and it is also discussed throughout the various websites of this network.
Upon physical exam, the patient might be diagnosed with an unspecific muscular injury related to golf. This is very common. If the pain heals in several days to several weeks, then the diagnosis is likely to be correct. If a more serious condition is discovered, such as spinal osteoarthritis or a herniated disc, there is a chance that this abnormality is indeed involved in the painful expression, but not necessarily.
Remember that many spinal abnormalities are mere scapegoats for sciatica, not the actual sources. Regardless of the diagnosis, long-term pain is unlikely to be due to any properly diagnosed anatomical reason.
Some chronic sciatica is sourced from the mindbody process and will resist medical treatment leading to the highly stubborn pain syndromes I see every day. The best path to treatment for this type of pain is usually some form of knowledge therapy. If your pain is psychologically-motivated, this treatment will likely have you feeling much better in a short time and you can be back on the golf course to enjoy your passion without the pain.
Muscular issues, such as tendon pulls, ligament tears and muscle strains and sprains should be evaluated and treated by a sports medicine physician or physical therapist.
If you are just not sure what type of pain you have or what its true origin really is, then it is best to consult with a spinal neurologist for a complete workup. These doctors are uniquely qualified to properly ascertain the underlying cause of sciatica, or any neuropathy syndrome, and will likely provide the best therapy results.