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How’s your golf game going this summer? Is low back pain holding you back? Golf is such a great way to spend time in the beautiful outdoors, but there’s nothing worse than experiencing low back pain when you’re making a 200 yard drive.
You’re not alone if you experience low back pain. In fact, Titleist gathered data from 31,000 golfers showed that 28% of golfers experience low back pain during golf.
In a previous article, we talked about the importance of improving your mid-back (thoracic) mobility to enhance your golf game. In this article, I want to explain why you can get low back pain while playing golf and what to do about it.
With golf, there’s a significant amount of rotational movement required throughout the body; everything from the shoulders down to your ankles.
Whenever, a part of the body moves less than it should, it can place more stress on the areas above and below it. Given the fact that many of us sit a lot throughout the day (office and computer work, driving), it’s easy for the hips and the mid back to stiffen up. Not only that, but certain muscles can get lengthened and weak. For example, our abdominals can get soft and our glute (butt) muscles can turn off resulting in extra hamstring tightness (no one likes that!).
So it’s no wonder that when the mid back and hips tighten up that the strain goes through the low back. More often than not the pain epicentre is the connection between the spine and the pelvis (L5-S1 are the terms we use).
It’s at that place along the spine where the most stress occurs. In fact cadaver studies have shown that it’s the most commonly worn out areas in human spines.
When we overstress that junction we can experience pain over time, especially when we put it through increased side bending or rotational movements with golf.
You may be wondering what to do if you have low back pain. In this next section I highlight an important concept that will help improve your swing and reduce your low back pain.
Naturally our lumbar spine should have a slight curve, creating a space between your low back and vertical when standing. When we compromise that curvature bad things can happen over time.
It’s amazing how we can throw this very natural concept out the window when we have a club in hand. To help get a sense of whether you’re maintaining your neutral spine when golfing is do the following:
Get into your stance phase with a club. When you’re in your ready position round your back excessively, now arch your back excessively. Now find the midpoint between those two extremes. This is your neutral lumbar spine position. Now touch the tip of your sternum (breast bone) and your pubic bone. See what distance these two bones are from each other. While holding these two key points, practice a swing without your club. Your hands should stay the same distance throughout your swing.
Once you feel comfortable with this movement, add your club and perform some slow speed swings while focusing on that neutral spine. A great way to check if you’re doing things right is to have a friend or family member video record your swing from the side so you can see how your lumbar posture is.
Another common cause of losing your neutral lumbar spine is early extension through the end of your swing phase. By leaving that squat position too early, you end up bringing your hips forward and increasing the amount of lumbar extension and rotation through your lumbar spine. If you’d like more of a walk through this concept check out this YouTube video here:
As physiotherapists, we assess movement on a daily basis and we’d be happy to help you reduce your back pain and your golf game at the same time.