Low Back Pain in the Golfer
Updated: Aug 31
Low Back Pain on the Course or Range?
You’re not alone! Unfortunately, low back pain is a common complaint among rotational athletes and accounts for nearly half of all golfing injuries. This pain usually occurs due to movement outside of safe ranges of motion or repetitive overload of the tissues beyond the tissue tolerance.
You’re Probably Asking, “Why Does My Low Back Hurt When Golfing?”
The golf swing is a very complex, whole-body movement that can place increased stress on the low back. The forces created during the rotation of a golf swing can result in pain and even limit your ability to play. Let’s dig into a couple of the common reasons why you might be experiencing low back pain with your swing:
Limited Hip Mobility
Our body has an incredible ability to adapt. If hip rotation mobility is limited (whether due to muscular imbalance or arthritic changes), the body must make up for that loss somewhere. Often times this loss is made up for by increasing movement through the lumbar spine. This is great for maintaining our power and ability to swing, but unfortunately this increased load through the low back can be more than what we can tolerate. Check out this link to increase hip mobility - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOJk2zoOMYQ
Leg Strength Deficits
Leg weakness, especially any weakness in the hips, can again be a contributor to low back pain. Our legs provide the stable base against the ground. That stable base is what allows us to change direction at our hips and even up throughout our spine. If we have weakness in the hips, we can’t create a stable platform to swing off of resulting in excess movement through the spine. Check out this link to increase hip strength - https://youtu.be/CT89J6xy_5E
Lack of Mid-back Mobility
We sit in flexed, rounded positions for most of the day and this can limit or ability to bend back and rotate Try hunching over and rounding your mid back and attempt to swing a club. You can see just how limited your ability to rotate is. If we are unable to rotate optimally through the mid back, that motion must be made up for in the low back… increases the stresses that the low back goes through. Check out this link to increase mid-back mobility - https://youtu.be/3N8r8gqeDYA
We aren’t talking about a 6-pack here! We’re talking about the neuromuscular control of the core to optimize your power and support the low back. Proper use of the core has a two-fold effect. Through our breathing and abdominal activation, we are able to stabilize our low back and resist excess movements like we described above. Our core is also crucial to creating rotational power for the golf swing. If we are deficient in this area, this can plague our performance and our tissue tolerance. Check out this link for a great movement to improve core control - https://youtu.be/EoQ8fQ5SkpA
The Stretch-Shortening Cycle
This concept plays a major role in creating power during your swing. Basically, when you come into your back swing you create a slingshot effect throughout the body by stretching the muscles and ligaments on your lead side. When you come down for the swing, the increased tension already built into your muscles and ligaments from the stretch helps you to transmit increased force into your swing. Although this is valuable for creating power, it can increase the stresses and load placed on the low back.
So What Can I Do If My Low Back is Hurting from Golfing?
Consult a professional that can break down your movements and find where you need more mobility and where you need more stability. Chiropractors and physical therapists are great first-line providers for musculoskeletal pain. Find a provider that keeps your goals in minds, helps you reduce your pain, and pushes you towards an active care approach.
Getting out of pain is just the start. Remaining pain free and increasing performance are goals that most golfers have. This is where a trainer like Mike Hammond at Gateway Golf Performance come into play. Mike is skilled in strength and conditioning of the golf athlete. He can guide your fitness routine to build your skills, increase performance, and keep you pain free so you can continue to enjoy the great game of golf for years to come. Plus, who doesn’t want to improve their game so they can beat their friends!