Golf is a sport where for the most part the body is put under low levels of stress. There are long periods of time walking down the Fairway, waiting for your golf partner to take a shot etc. However, the body undergoes high load and stress during the golf swing. In fact, a load of 6-8 times body weight can be placed upon the lower back when swinging the driver above 100mph.
It is no surprise then that low back pain is the most common site of injury in both the amateur and professional golfer. Typically, the right side of the low back is the site of pain in a right handed golfer. In professional golfers this may be caused by a high volume of golf and an ability to create higher levels of force and power. In the amateur golfer, this low back pain may be caused by a number of factors. Certain swing characteristics are statistically more likely to develop low back pain. Poor physical conditioning of the amateur golfer means that the body is less likely to tolerate the high levels of loading on a repeated basis. Inadequate warm up also increases the risk of injury. You may want to read our golf warm up article and watch the video for some exercise ideas.
In the right handed golfer, the right side of the lumbar spine is most commonly affected because of the complex sequence of movements that that area needs to complete to deliver the force through the body and ultimately to the golf ball. When poor mechanics of the body alter the sequence of the swing it increases the risk of what is known as “the crunch factor”.
The lower back and pelvis must move from an arched position at the top of the back swing, to a more neutral and then rounded position coupled with rotation and side bend during the downswing in order to get the hips aiming forward down the fairway where you want the golf ball to travel.
A failure to move in a co-ordinated way through this movement can lead to increased side bend during the swing, which when coupled with rotation can cause the joints known as facet joints within the right side of the back to compress to an extent that the body cannot deal with. This is the “crunch factor”! Eventually, with repeated loading, your facet joints start to become irritated and may become inflamed which is when the golfer starts to experience pain.
There may be technical elements of a golfers swing pattern that can be corrected with lessons and I would certainly encourage the golfer to take lessons to help reduce these characteristics if they are causing problems. Physical limitation, i.e stiffness in other joints of the body, tight muscles, poor movement control, core stability or coordination are all things that may cause these undesirable characteristics and subsequently increase the risk of low back pain. These physical aspects of the swing can be managed and altered to free the body of the golfer and reduce the risk of low back pain or further low back pain. A physical assessment will identify these restrictions and rehabilitation so that the golfer can condition themselves specifically to improve their golf swing and reduce risk of injury.
If you have pain during or after playing golf and want to know more about what you can do to avoid this, get your FREE Fairway.Physio’s “top 5 tips to avoiding low back pain in golf” information pack. Simply send us an email to request yours. Or, if you are not sure if anyone can help with your problem and would simply like to discuss your problem with an expert, please feel free to call for a free, no-obligation, telephone consultation. Find all our contact details in the contacts section of the website.