Many people think of golf as a leisurely activity, but that’s not true. Golf is a serious sport that requires a lot of athleticism and can result in traumatic injuries.
Low back pain is the most common injury suffered by both amateur and professional golfers. 50% of amateur golfers and 25% of professional golfers suffer from low back pain.
If you’re suffering from low back pain, then it’s very likely that it’s because of a combination of poor swing mechanics and certain daily activities that you’re doing away from the golf course, at work or at home.
This article is going to dive into 2 mobility issues that may be messing up your swing and hurting your back and 2 things you might be doing away from the golf course that are contributing to your low back pain.
Let’s start with your swing.
Everybody wishes they had a perfect golf swing, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson included. Maybe you’ve even had a professional look at your swing and make recommendations.
The problem is, your body might have limitations that are not only keeping you from having a ideal swing, but also hurting your low back.
The two most common limitations contributing to poor swing mechanics and low back pain are:
- Failure to internally rotate your lead hip during your follow through
- Failure to rotate your upper back (thoracic spine) during your backswing and downswing
Hip Internal Rotation
Being able to rotate your body with power and speed is very important during your swing. Where you get that rotation from is not only the key to hitting the ball far and accurately, but also to protecting your low back and staying healthy.
During your swing your lumbar spine (low back) should remain stiff with very little rotation. Your lumbar spine has roughly 10 degrees of rotation in either direction. Compare that to about 90-100 degrees of total rotation in either hip.
During your downswing your lead hip needs to be able to internally rotate 30-50 degrees. Professional golfers have at least 45 degrees of hip internal rotation on both legs.
If you don’t have enough internal rotation in your lead hip, your lumbar spine will have to pick up the slack and rotate more. Because the lumbar spine is not made for rotation, this leads to low back pain.
Not only that, but this will also mess with your swing and cause you to hang back.
Hanging back means you’re not transferring your body weight properly during your downswing and opening up too soon. When this happens the ball will usually hook or fade and how frustrating is that!
Thoracic Spine Mobility
Being able to rotate your thoracic spine (upper back) is very important during your backswing and your downswing. The more you can rotate your thoracic spine, the more club speed you can generate, the further you can hit the ball, and the less stress you will have on your low back.
The good news is your thoracic spine is designed to rotate a lot, about 40 degrees in each direction.
The bad news is most people have thoracic spines that are locked-up and don’t rotate anywhere near 40 degrees.
If your thoracic spine doesn’t rotate enough your body will have no choice but to make your low back rotate more, which we now know leads to low back pain.
Not having enough rotation through your thoracic spine will also make your backswing shorter. Having a short backswing means that you can’t generate enough club speed and you can’t hit the ball as far as you could.
Having a tight thoracic spine can also result in you opening up too early, making it more difficult to hit fairways.
These next to two things are not as exciting or sexy as hip and thoracic spine mobility, but they are hurting your swing, your score, and your low back.
Here are 2 daily activities that may be hurting your swing and contributing to your low back pain.
Most people are spending an average of 13 hours a day sitting.
That’s a lot.
Sitting isn’t very good for our backs.
Sitting with bad posture is even worse, and most of us slouch when we sit.
Slouching puts a lot of stress on the discs in our low back and increases our risk for sciatica and disc herniations.
Sitting for 13 hours a day also creates muscle imbalances in our body. Muscles imbalances are a combination of tight and weak muscles that change our posture and how we move.
Muscle imbalances also change how we swing a golf club.
Sitting as much as we do causes our hip flexors to become too tight and our gluteal muscles to become too weak.
This is particularly harmful to golfers because having strong gluteal muscles is absolutely necessary for generating power during the downswing and getting distance off the tee and having flexible hip flexors is necessary for full hip extension on impact.
If you sit a lot, it’s important to find and fix the muscle imbalances in your body. If you don’t your back will continue to hurt and your swing will continue to suffer.
It goes without saying that nutrition is important for everyone, especially athletes. Olympic and professional athletes rarely eat fast food. I know because I’ve worked with them 1-on-1.
But very few people understand how what you eat can actually make your back hurt or feel better.
Your diet’s effect on your low back is much greater than you realize. In fact, for many of my clients it’s been the number one factor in their low back pain.
It may not be the main contributing factor in your case, but i guarantee you your diet is playing a role in your low back pain.
How diet affects your low back could be a topic of an entire book, so I won’t go into the science or the specifics here. But if you’re serious about eliminating your low back pain and taking your golf game to the next level you need to have a certified nutritionist or dietitian, with experience working with elite athletes, take a hard look at your diet.
What your eating is either adding to your pain or taking away from it.
Low back pain can be relentless and it can take over your life… but it doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s frustrating when you’ve tried so many different types of treatment, but you’re still not getting any relief.
The worst part of having low back pain is it keeps you from doing the things that you love, like playing golf. As you become more inactive your body becomes weaker, your low back pain becomes worse, and other parts of your health start to deteriorate. It can start to feel like getting your health back is an impossible dream.
Most practitioners will prescribe flexibility and strengthening programs.
But many people try these programs and still find themselves with unrelenting low back pain and no relief in sight.
If you’re suffering from low back pain and can’t seem to get rid of it, I can help you troubleshoot some of the root causes of low back pain and help you reduce or eliminate it altogether.
I’m a Kinesiologist, Golf Fitness Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Nutritionist. Helping golfers with low back pain is the focus of my 20 year career.
Click the link below to learn more about my “Free 30-min Low Back Pain Troubleshooting Session For Golfers”, where I’ll explore your health history in more detail and identify some of the top root causes of your low back pain.