Whether you’re a once-a-month golfer or one who hits balls every day, there is a good chance you’ve experienced some kind of low back pain as a result of swinging a club.
A host of tour players including Brandt Snedeker, Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods have complained of back pain this season, even missing tournament play because of it. Indeed, research has consistently identified low back injuries as the most common injury affecting golfers. The exact cause of this pain is a hotly debated topic, however, most seem to agree that the rapid and intense shear, rotational and lateral forces placed on the lumbar spine (low back) as a result of the golf swing are in some way responsible.
There are several likely causes of lower back pain in golfers, and that appropriate intervention can successfully prevent and alleviate lower back pain.
With that said, let’s look at some strategies and interventions to prevent low back pain:
Address Swing Faults and Characteristics
Studies seem to agree that faulty movement patterns and type of swing utilized have a great affect on the propensity to experience low back pain. Any swing fault involves excessive flexion, lateral flexion (a fancy way of saying side bending), or extension of the lumbar spine will increase the likelihood of low back pain. A “reverse C” address posture or follow through (think Monty’s swing for a pretty good dictionary definition of this) or reverse spine angle are the biggest candidates in my experience. Reverse spine angles in particular have been associated with low back pain associated with low back pain by researchers.
Interestingly, the “classic” swing (think Jack Nicklaus or Sam Snead where the lead heel comes off the floor in the back-swing and hip turn is much more pronounced) has been demonstrated to be easier in terms of forces on the low back than the modern golf swing in which the lead heel stays flat and a big “x–factor” is developed with a small hip turn and a huge shoulder turn.
Develop a Strong Core
Glute and ab strength helps stabilize the body and alleviate some of the pressure on the low back. The same study mentioned above showed that pro golfers not reporting low back pain demonstrated significantly greater abdominal muscle activation than those that did. Essentially, if you have weak abs and glutes, the low back is called upon to support the upper torso and supply stability in the golf swing. That’s not good.
The other issue concerning glute and ab strength is that of unilateral imbalances, with one side being stronger than the other. Several studies have identified muscle imbalances and asymmetry in glute strength as a probable cause of low back pain. A simple way to test unilateral glute strength is to complete a supine single leg bridge test.
Lying with your back on the floor, bend your knees so you can place your feet flat on the floor and fire your glutes and hamstrings to lift your butt off the floor, locking your hips out, so your body forms a straight line in a glute bridge position. From here the left leg off the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
- Notice if the pelvis starts to drop, or the right leg starts to shake on either side.
- Do the hamstrings or lower back start to cramp?
If these things happen, you likely have a strength issue with your glutes or they are inhibited. If the results are significantly different when you repeat the test holding your right leg in the air then you likely have a unilateral strength imbalance.
Source: www.www.golfwrx.com; Nick Buchan; July 18, 2014.