“FORE PLEASE, Tiger Woods now driving” While we haven’t had to come back from spinal fusion surgery, I’d be willing to bet many of you have dealt with some form of back pain in your golf game. Why is low back pain so prevalent in golf and is there anything we can do to prevent it?
No one wants to be in pain and when it comes to golf, we certainly don’t want to be sore and stiff after our round. The last thing we need is to stop playing the game we love because our bodies can’t hold up. Reducing or eliminating back pain is completely doable, but it starts with understanding how the body is put together.
The body is a series of joints stacked on top of one another. These joints alternate primary functions of either mobility or stability. The lumbar spine (aka the low back) is supposed to be a stable segment. The joints directly above and below the lumbar spine, the thoracic spine and hips, are responsible for mobility. Problems occur when mobility in those joints is limited. This results in the low back having to pick up the slack and become more involved in movement which causes undue stress and strain. Here are three effective strategies you can implement in order to dramatically reduce your low back pain!
- Increase hip mobility: The hips are crucial for creating mobility. Because we spend so much of our day seated, we tend to lose range of motion in the hips and fail to rotate them properly, something we clearly need to be able to do in the golf swing. If you lack hip mobility, common swing characteristics that are associated include sway and slide off the ball, along with early extension on the down swing by not being able to clear the hips efficiently.
- Improve thoracic spine mobility: Coupled with the hips, the “t-spine” needs to be able to move freely without restriction. As we increase flexibility in this region, we notice the benefits of better posture, increased rotation in the golf swing and improved dissociation between the upper and lower body. Poor t-spine mobility leads to restricted backswings and loss of posture.
- Build core strength: Many of us are doing core exercises that are detrimental to spine health. The job of our core is to provide stability and prevent unwanted motion. Exercises like crunches, Russian twists and bicycle sit-ups are not the best ways to train. They place a tremendous amount of rotary torque on the lumbar spine and compress the discs. Instead of those drills, focus more on exercises such as the anti-rotation press, hollow holds or trunk activated bridges.
Although it may be the area where you feel pain, very rarely is the low back the source of pain. Often it is the surrounding joints and musculature that fails to do their job that results in discomfort in the lumbar spine. By improving mobility and building proper core stability, you will take the appropriate steps to not only reduce pain, but teach your body how to move properly and enhance mobility. If you’re not sure of the best ways to go about implementing these changes or aren’t clear what exercises you need to be doing, get in touch with a Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) golf fitness specialist who can take you through an individualized assessment. This assessment can provide data and feedback to you about any limitations or weaknesses that you have. Additionally a proper movement assessment can also correlate how movement deficiencies manifest themselves as swing compensations on the course. Don’t go through a round dealing with back pain, get ahead of the problem by taking the steps to improve your body in the gym and on the course!
-Michael McDonnell –
TPI certified golf fitness specialist
Founder of The Golf Movement Academy online training program