The winter seed is taking shape on our courses and our local golfers are coming out of their summer cocoons with our visitors from the North soaking up our sunshine. It is that time of year again where I begin to see a lot of golfers who develop back pain.
Have you ever been humming along the course, finish hole 9 with a birdie, and as you are making the turn you notice your back starts to stiffen up? Are you able to make it the whole back 9? Or, do you have to call it a day and be the designated driver while your golfing buddies are tearing up the course? Do you have to limit the number of holes you play because of your back pain?
Hopefully this isn’t happening to you. If you have read up to this far, there is a good chance this is happening to you. Let me tell you the most common culprits for the low back pain in golfers…
AND IT’S NOT ALWAYS YOUR LOW BACK’S FAULT…
It usually stems from the joints above and below the low back. They are the thoracic spine (mid-back) and the hips. These joints are supposed to be relatively more mobile than the low back in rotation, as needed during a golf swing. These joints can often become restricted, lose mobility, or just lack the proper stability at their end-ranges.
This is especially true for the avid golfer this time of year. This is when they start picking up their sticks again after a whole summer off. Couple the lack of swings and likely no structured training regimen during the summer and you got yourself a recipe for back pain.
The lumbar spine (low back) is not made to rotate like the thoracic spine (mid-back). It is strictly based on anatomy. Our hips are one of the most mobile joints in our body and provide a lot of rotation capability. So if you are not getting the rotation through the thoracic spine or the hips, where do you get the rotation from?…you guessed it, the low back.
Not only do you have to look at the motion of those joints, you need to look at the stability at the end-ranges. For example, on your follow through, most of your weight is shifted through the lead leg. With this shift, you are also turning your upper body to face where you are hitting, making the hip go through internal rotation motion. If you are not stable on that front hip, you are going to be putting a lot of strain on the low back to try and compensate and make you stable.
So, basically, to produce the same amount of “turn”, power into the strike, and perceived swing speed, the back will inherently try to become more mobile. The problem with that is the low back and “core” are meant to be strong and stable during the swing to transfer your energy produced from your lower and upper half.
When the low back can no longer be that strong foundational base, we start seeing more muscular strains, joint irritation, and even nerve irritation. That’s a problem.
So when you’re sick and tired of being the designated drivers for your buddies, limiting your swings per week, reaching for the ibuprofen, or looking to get rid of your addiction to hot/cold packs after a round of golf, remember you have a better and more pro-active way to approach this issue before it gets worse.
Feel free to send me an email to ask specific questions or schedule a free consult.
Steven Alexander PT, DPT, Cert DN