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Is Bowling Bad for Your Back? The Truth About Bowling and Back Pain

  • Reading time:11 mins read

Bowling is one of America’s most popular and oldest participatory sports, with over 70 million people heading to the lanes every year.

However, along with strikes and spares, many bowlers are familiar with another aspect of the game – back pain.

It’s estimated that up to 80% of professional bowlers have experienced back injuries and pain connected to the sport. For recreational bowlers as well, lower back pain resulting from bowling is a common concern.

But is bowling inherently harmful for your back? Or just when practiced with poor technique and preparation?

In this in-depth guide, we’ll analyze the bowling mechanics to see if the motion is detrimental to spinal health.

We’ll also provide tips to bowl safely and prevent injuries for bowlers of all skill levels. Read on to learn the truth about bowling and back pain.

Is Bowling Posture Harmful to the Back?

To determine if the posture and motion of bowling contribute to back pain, we first need to consider the proper stance and technique.

The ideal bowling posture aligns the spine and minimizes awkward bending or twisting that could strain the structures of the back.

Here are the key elements of proper bowling posture:

  • Feet shoulder width apart, with the non-dominant foot slightly ahead of the dominant foot.
  • Knees bent in an athletic stance to enable movement. Avoid locking knees.
  • Lean slightly forward from hips, keeping back straight. Do not hunch over.
  • Shoulders relaxed and head up, maintaining neutral spine alignment.
  • Ball held at waist level to avoid raising arms/back muscles excessively.

When executed correctly, this posture stabilizes the core muscles while allowing the legs and hips to initiate the bowling motion. The spine remains in a safe neutral position, minimizing rotational strain.

However, many bowlers make mistakes in their stance that can lead to back problems, such as:

  • Excessive forward bends in the back, rather than hip hinge.
  • Rotation of upper body or shoulders when swinging the ball.
  • Locking knees, restricting movement.
  • Holding the ball significantly above or below waist height.
  • Supporting weight primarily on one leg rather than balanced evenly.

These posture flaws place strain on the spine, back muscles, and surrounding tissues with each bowling motion.

Over time, the repeated stress can manifest as damage or inflammation, resulting in injuries and chronic pain. But with proper form, the bowling stance alone should not be an issue.

Bowling Motion and Impact on the Back

More than just static posture, it’s important to consider how the dynamic motions involved in bowling may affect the back as well. Let’s break down the key steps of the bowling approach and release:

  1. The initial step with the ball-side foot to begin the approach.
  2. Three-step approach leading with the opposite foot, then ball-side foot x2.
  3. As the final step is planted, hips rotate forward as the ball swings back.
  4. The ball swings forward as weight shifts through the legs, transferring energy to ball release.
  5. The ball rolls out of hand as the bowling arm follows through straight toward the target.

Two key actions in the bowling movement that can potentially stress the back are the forward hip rotation and follow-through after ball release.

As the hips initiate rotation, a torque force is placed on the lower spine and pelvis. When done powerfully, this can hyperextend the back’s joints and muscles.

The follow-through motion also generates significant counter-rotational torque on the trunk as the arm swings forward.

Repeatedly generating these forces from the hips and shoulders turns the back’s tissues through a strenuous range of motion.

With high bowling frequency, this can overload the spine’s structural capacity. Lumbar discs, ligaments, and muscles absorb a lot of pressure, potentially leading to injury over time.

However, a controlled approach that seamlessly transfers momentum through the body can reduce the loads on the back.

The key is balance and alignment during motion, not velocity or power generation. With proper technique, bowling does not need to over-stress spinal structures.

Other Bowling Factors That Can Lead to Back Pain

Aside from bowling motions itself, there are some secondary factors involved in the sport that can exacerbate back problems if not managed properly:

Bowling Duration and Frequency

Bowling for long durations or high frequencies without adequate rest and recovery time can overload back tissues cumulatively.

Fatigued spinal muscles lose stability, while discs have reduced hydration and resilience when constantly compressed. This increases vulnerability to painful strains and sprains.

Heavy Bowling Balls

Using an excessively heavy bowling ball forces back muscles to work harder to support the weight during the approach and swing.

This can facilitate muscle tightness or spasms over time. Opting for too light a ball conversely reduces bowling power and accuracy. Selecting the optimal ball weight for your strength and skill level is important.

Improper Lifting and Carrying

Lifting a bowling ball with poor technique – bending at the back rather than the knees, twisting while lifting, and holding the ball away from your core – can certainly trigger acute back injuries.

Similarly, for league bowlers, carrying multiple balls at once also needs to be done with caution to avoid back strains.

With vigilance and proper form, bowlers can minimize risks from these factors. But fatigue, overexertion, and improper lifting remain potential causes of bowling-related back pain.

Tips to Bowl Safely and Prevent Back Injuries

While bowling does involve a considerable load on the back, you can take steps to mitigate risks and bowl pain-free:

Use Proper Form and Approach

As outlined earlier, maintain proper neutral spine posture and alignment at all times. Avoid rounding shoulders or arching the back during motions.

Move smoothly through the approach steps, transferring energy efficiently up the body sequence to the arm and ball release.

Strengthen Core and Back Muscles

Building muscular endurance in the core and back will help stabilize the spine to withstand bowling forces.

Pilates, yoga, and other exercises that improve posture and balance are very beneficial. Always stretch and warm up muscles before bowling as well.

Choose the Appropriate Ball Weight

Select a ball weight that allows you to maintain control and swing effortlessly through release. Heavier is not necessarily better for back health.

The optimal weight depends on your height, strength, and skill level. Consider starting lighter and increasing slowly over time.

Warm Up and Stretch Before Bowling

Taking a few minutes to warm up and dynamically stretch the back, hip, and arm muscles will help reduce injury risk and improve performance.

This increases tissue flexibility, range of motion, and blood flow before the first bowl.

Use Wrist Supports if Needed

For bowlers with wrist vulnerability, using braces or supports can transfer some stress off the wrist joint and onto stronger forearm muscles instead. This may indirectly reduce strain on the upper back as well.

Take Regular Breaks

Avoid prolonged bowling sessions without short rest breaks every 20-30 minutes. This gives the back muscles time to briefly relax and recover before the next set. Hydrate well during breaks too.

Listen to Your Body

If you start feeling any pain in the back or elsewhere, stop and rest. It likely indicates you are overexerting injured or fatigued tissues.

Continuing will only make problems worse. Let your body fully heal before bowling at intensity again.

With this mix of prevention tips, bowlers can enjoy the sport safely and pain-free while protecting back health over the long run.


Bowling remains one of the world’s most fun and engaging sports, great for all ages and skill levels.

However, the mechanics of the bowling approach do place considerable loads on the back that can lead to pain or injury for some participants.

Proper form, technique adjustments, targeted exercise, and responsible bowling habits are key to managing risks.

By understanding the interactions between bowling and the back, players can minimize injury potential and continue striking down the lanes for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I go bowling with a bad back?

You can bowl with minor or moderate back pain, but take care to avoid further injury. Use a lighter ball, bend your knees to pick it up, and avoid excessive twisting. Stop if the pain worsens. Severe back injuries may preclude bowling until fully healed.

How do I stop my back from hurting when bowling?

Use proper form, bend your knees to lift the ball, hold the ball close to your body, keep your back straight during swing, stretch before bowling, strengthen core muscles, take breaks, use wrist support, ensure ball weight is manageable, and stop bowling if pain starts.

How do you bowl without back pain?

Bowling without back pain requires proper technique, choosing the right ball weight, strengthening core muscles, warming up adequately before bowling, taking breaks, bracing if needed, avoiding overexertion, and stopping at the first sign of pain.

What is the most common injury in bowling?

Lower back strains are the most common bowling injuries, resulting from improper lifting, twisting forcefully, overuse, and poor core strength. Knee ligament sprains, wrist sprains, and shoulder tendinitis are other common bowling injuries.

What sport is best for bad back?

Low-impact sports like swimming, walking, and cycling are best for bad backs. Yoga and Pilates can help strengthen the back safely. Avoid sports with jarring impacts or excessive spinal twisting like football, basketball, golf, tennis, and volleyball.

What sports should you avoid with back pain?

Sports like football, basketball, tennis, golf, martial arts, weightlifting, and volleyball often aggravate back pain and should be avoided until the back has healed fully. Low-impact aerobic activities are better suited for bad backs.

Can bowling cause lower back pain?

Yes, bowling can lead to lower back pain due to the twisting forces involved, improper lifting and carrying of balls, overuse, muscle strains, poor posture and technique, falls, and injuries from slips on the lane.

How can I strengthen my lower back?

Lower back exercises like supermans, bridges, bird dogs, planks, cat-cows, and deadlifts can help strengthen the muscles and reduce strain from bowling. Always consult a physical therapist before beginning.

What injuries can you get from bowling?

Common bowling injuries include lower back strains, knee ligament sprains, wrist sprains or fractures, shoulder tendinitis or tears, elbow tendinitis, finger jamming injuries, muscle pulls, disc issues, and falls onto the hard surface leading to fractures.