Lower Back Pain and Golf

A game of golf is a great way to get some light exercise, be challenged, enjoy the outdoors, and spend time with friends and business contacts.  Unfortunately, the pleasure of golf can be deterred by aches and pains and injuries.  One of the most common injuries in golfers, especially amateur golfers, is low back pain.
Low back pain in golfers is often caused by poor abdominal stability and core strength, making it easy for the back to extend and compress the lumbar spine.  Over time, this leads to pain and discomfort on the day of golfing, and possibly arthritis in the future.
Lower back pain can be frustrating, but there is always a reason behind the lower back pain.  Once the golfer is assessed and the culprit behind the problem is found, the golfer can start strengthening and stretching the correct muscles to minimize or prevent low back pain.  There are 4 common reasons behind lower back pain in golf:
“S” Posture: Excessive arching (lordosis) of the lower back upon address of the golf ball.  This posture causes inhibition of the abdominal and gluteal muscles, two groups of muscles that are very important in protecting the spine and generating power in the golf swing.  In normal posture the pelvis should be tilted forward slightly, keeping a neutral spine.
During lessons many golfers are taught to stick their butt out and in doing so go into hyperlordosis (excessive arching).  This immediately inhibits the abdominals and gluteals.  One other reason you may have an “S” Posture is if you experience lower crossed syndrome where the hip flexors and lower back are very tight and the abdominals and gluteals are weak.  Many office workers and individuals with poor abdominal tone develop this as your body finds the path of least resistance and utilizes the strongest muscles.
Reverse Spine Angle: This occurs when a golfer utilizes their back muscles to go into extension on the backswing.  This will directly affect the rate and amount of crunch factor that the lumbar spine will be subject to at impact of the golf ball.  With a reverse spine angle a slice is often the direct result of this swing fault.
This is most often a direct result of poor abdominal tone and gluteal strength.  It can also be related to a lack of proper instruction as to the correct follow through for a golf swing.
Early Extension: This occurs when a golfer extends their hips and spine during the downswing.  When this occurs the abdominals are inhibited and prevent the abdominals from being able to absorb the impact on the spine during the crunch phase.  This is recognizable when a players hips thrust forward moving closer to the ball near impact.
When the golfer has poor gluteal strength or a limitation in hips this swing fault most often occurs.
Restricted back leg follow through: When the golfer finishes their golf swing the back foot should be able to rotate onto the toe and all spikes should be able to be seen.
If the golfer is unable to perform this level of rotation in the back hip it may be something that can be corrected with the expertise of a physiotherapist or chiropractor.
Lower back pain should not prevent you from participating in your favourite activities, in the instance of lower back pain you should consult a professional who understands your lower back and can help create a plan to prevent future lower back pain.
Gordon is a graduate of the University of the Fraser Valley and has been a local golfer for the past 12 years.   As a certified TPI Fitness Professional and Kinesiologist at Ascend Fitness Inc., Gordon helps golfers in Chilliwack improve their game and golf injury free.   For more information, go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.

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