Golfer’s Guide to Lower Back Pain
Although golf is considered a low-impact sport, that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity for injuries, and back pain is the most common complaint among golfers.
In fact, according to research from the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI), 28% of golfers experience lower back pain after every round. This guide is here to explain the types of back injuries and provide tips on how to prevent injury.
Possible Lower Back Injuries
1. Muscle Strain or Ligamentous Sprain
Also known as a “pulled muscle,” a muscle strain in the back is the most common lower back injury experienced by golfers. It can feel like a minor ache to a sharp and debilitating pain. Muscle strains will usually resolve itself within 2-4 weeks of rest and recovery.
2. Disc Injury
“The lumbar intervertebral disc acts as a spacer between adjacent vertebrae to help absorb compressive forces and create space for the spinal nerves to exit the spinal column” (TPI). There’s a lot that can go wrong with the discs in your spine, including stress, tears, bulging, or even a full rupture. Disc injuries are often a pre-existing condition that is aggravated or worsened by the rotational movement of the golf swing.
3. Altered Joint Mechanics or Motor Control
According to TPI, experts believe that 80% of all chronic lower pain begins by the brain telling changing the muscles that fire or changing the order in which they fire, even if there is no visible injury. These problems with motor control may begin as a protective mechanism, but often develop into chronic issues.
4. Degenerative Arthritis
Because of the rotational nature of golf, the spinal joints, just like all the other joints in your body, can become arthritic with lack of use, overuse, and abuse. The resulting inflammation can cause a chronic dull pain over time.
5. Bone Fracture
According to TPI, “Stress fractures and pedicle fractures (spondylolysis) are common problems seen in the lumbar spines of rotational athletes.”
1. Warm up before you start
2. Normalize Movement Patterns
The lower back (lumbar spine) is not made to rotate, so developing and normalizing the flexibility and rotation of the hips, middle back (thoracic spine), shoulders, and ankles is crucial in preventing lower back injuries from playing golf.
3. Alter/Optimize Swing Mechanics
Swing characteristics like the reverse spine angle, S-posture, and hanging back can all lead to lower back pain when golfing.
• Neutral Posture: A neutral spine posture can dramatically help stabilize spinal mechanics.
• Lead Hip High: The best hip placement for those with lower back pain is a level pelvis or a slightly higher lead hip.
• Forward Ball Position: To avoid hanging back or a reverse spine angle, a good trick is to place the golf ball slightly in front of where the golfer normally places it.
• Eliminate the Sway: TPI says “any movement away from the target (Sway) in the backswing, can lead to Reverse Spine Angle at the top” which leads to lower back pain, so it’s important not to sway the hips when swinging the golf club.
4. Incorporate Recovery Techniques
• Hot and cold therapy
• Nutritional Support
• Recovery Exercises
Pain Management, Sport