Fore! Lower-Back Pain in Golf

The skies are clearing up, and The Masters just passed; you might have felt more inspired to hit the links or go to the range with some of your new titanium drivers. After all, if Tiger Woods can come back from over a year of rehabilitation, you can too! But before we get too excited, here are some things to look out for before we start hitting bucket after bucket at the driving range.

Research has shown that golf injuries do occur at high frequencies.  To no surprise, the number 1 injury associated with the game of golf is Low Back Pain.  Statistics show that 1 out of 2 golfers will experience low-back pain or injury during their playing career. Why is this so prevalent, you might ask?  The main reasons include a combination of the following:

  • Bodily physical dysfunction or limitations
  • Poor swing biomechanics
  • Overuse (excessive practice)
  • No regular customized exercise program
  • Improper club fitting

What are some of the physical causes of low back pain in golfers?

  • Limited flexibility of the trunk/thoracic spine
  • Poor ‘core’ muscle strength and endurance
  • Limited hip mobility

What are the most common lower back injury-inducing swing mechanics?

S-posturea term given to describe too much curvature in the lower spine at the address position

Early Extension – the term used to describe the thrusting of the lower body toward the ball at impact

Reverse Spine Angle – refers to the backward bending of the spine as a player reaches the top of their backswing.

In all three scenarios described above, the shared mechanism of injury is repetitive rotational-compression stress to the lower back during an ‘extended’ or backward bending position. This typically happens because of a lack of thoracic spine (mid-back) and/or hip mobility, so the low back has to compensate more to achieve the rotation necessary to complete the swing.

So, before you start heading to the driving range, here are a few simple exercises to prevent a back injury during this season.

  1. Mermaid Pose or QL Stretch

(This pose will stretch the muscle responsible for side bending and twisting while also promoting thoracic expansion and shoulder mobility)

  1. Thoracic spine self-mobilization

(During the backswing and follow-through, sufficient thoracic rotation is essential to avoid excessive side bending or extension)

  1. Hip rotation mobility “90/90”

(During the backswing and follow-through, sufficient hip mobility and ‘turning’ rather than ‘sliding’  is essential to properly shift the weight from one leg to the other without stressing the lower back)

Since low back pain and other golf-related injuries can also result from poor technique, taking a lesson from a golf professional can be an essential 1st step toward injury prevention.  In addition, proper equipment fitting can also help with performance and minimize the risk of injuries.  And finally, if you already have an injury that originated or is aggravated by golf, see a physiotherapist experienced in golf biomechanics who can provide personalized advice on appropriate treatment solutions for the specific problems.

By: Steve Wong & Chelsea Chua