Golf is a great sport, and is considered to have many physical and social benefits which equate to better health. However, golf related low back pain is the biggest pain complaint among golfers of all ages and skill levels. A review of the literature reveals that, collectively, about 25% of golfers experience low back pain (Mchardy). By understanding and mitigating the risk factors regarding low back pain and golf, you’ll be able to achieve long-term enjoyment of the game.
Of course there’s a multitude of things to consider when it comes to WHY you might be experiencing golf related low back pain, such as:
- Swing mechanics
- Properly fitted equipment
- Previous history of low back pain and injury
Let’s first consider the mechanics of the low back, in order to see why low back pain is occurring while playing golf in the first place. The way the anatomy is structured in the low back allows for flexion (forward bending) and extension (bending back) with ease; however, it doesn’t allow for a lot of rotation. Watch the video below for a more visual explanation:
Center for Musculoskeletal Function : Low Back Pain and Golfers
With the golf swing being an asymmetrical, unilateral, rotational movement, and the low back not being designed for a lot of rotation, we begin to see the problem.
Researchers have found that golfers with low back pain tend to:
- Have low back pain on the right side of their low back if they are a right handed golfer
- This matches findings with Suguya et. al. who found more degenerative changes on the right side of the lower back in 283 Japanese golfers with low back pain.
- Experience pain during the follow-through phase of the swing, shortly after impact
- This matches the findings that the peak of left rotation and right side bend, happens right after impact.
- Laterally bend their back to the left during the backswing and then to the right during the downswing more than golfers without low back pain
- Have less hip and trunk mobility
- Without proper mobility to the hips and trunk of the body, the golfer is more likely to create excessive rotation from their low back.
- Have a delayed core muscle activation pattern during impact compared to healthy golfers
- It is likely that they are not able to protect their back as well, because of the delayed activation.
- Have less muscle endurance and early fatigue with timed physical tests like glute bridges, side bridges, and planking than their healthy counterparts
- Endurance tests reveal the golfer’s capacity to stabilize the spine in order to protect it from the powerful forces generated during the golf swing.
- Asymmetrical trunk rotation strength with a greater ability to rotate to the left (i.e. downswing for a right handed golfer) than to the right (i.e. backswing for a right handed golfer)
This means that proper biomechanics (how we move) of not only the low back, but the joints above and below, are very important in order to prevent golf related low back pain. Without proper body mechanics due to physical limitations, it is highly likely that the golfer will, in turn, have injury-causing swing mechanics.
If you’re suffering from golf related low back pain, book your golf movement assessment today so that you can get back to enjoying golf! (561) 318-8070
Lindsay, D., and J. Horton. “Comparison of spine motion in elite golfers with and without low back pain.” Journal of Sports Sciences 20.8 (2002): 599-605. Web.
Lindsay, David M., and Anthony A. Vandervoort. “Golf-Related Low Back Pain: A Review of Causative Factors and Prevention Strategies.” Asian Journal of Sports Medicine 5.4 (2014): n. pag. Web.
Mefford, Jason, Koichi Sairyo, Toshinori Sakai, Justin Hopkins, Madoka Inoue, Rui Amari, Nitin N. Bhatia, Akira Dezawa, and Natsuo Yasui. “Modic type I changes of the lumbar spine in golfers.” Skeletal Radiology 40.4 (2010): 467-73. Web.
Reinhardt, Gregory. “The Role of Decreased Hip IR as a Cause of Low Back Pain in a Golfer: a Case Report.” HSS Journal ® 9.3 (2013): 278-83. Web.