Low Back Pain And The Golf Athlete

Low back issues are the #1 thing that golfers come see us for. The problem with low back pain is that it can be incredibly uncomfortable, limit not only your golf game but also your everyday life, and can pose a challenge if not taken care of from the start. Unfortunately, many golfers believe that just resting and waiting for the pain to go away while taking medications for it is the best approach. The majority of the time, rest and medications don’t seem to address why the person has low back pain, it just addresses the symptoms they are currently experiencing. While there are many reasons for why someone may experience low back pain during golf, we are going to share with you three key areas that are directly contributing to a golfer’s low back pain. 

Set Up Position

When it comes to addressing the ball, the position of your low back is key for determining whether or not your back might be getting excessive stress on it. The setup we see most that contributes to low back pain is what we call S posture. In S posture, the low back is in an overarched position during ball address and stays in that position throughout the swing sequence. The overarched position puts a lot of stress on the tissues and joints on the back side of the spine and can make them more sensitive to swinging if that position isn’t addressed.

Look at the two pictures below. The first is what we normally look for in the golf setup position in that the lower part of the back is in more of a neutral position. Compare it with the 2nd picture, and you can notice how the low back is significantly more arched at address. This is S posture. Repetitive swinging in S posture can create increased stress on the back which it might not like over the course of 18 holes. 

Neutral Low Back Position At Ball Address

S Posture Is Excessive Arching Of The Low Back At Address.

Lack Of Hip Mobility

Hip mobility is a crucial part of why a golfer might be dealing with low back pain. The inability to rotate around the hip joint either during the backswing or downswing can create more stress on the low back. If a golfer is missing hip mobility, specifically hip rotation mobility, then the low back will have to do more to ensure the ability to deliver the club properly on impact and also on follow through. While the low back does require some movement, it’s much less than you think.

The hip should be the more mobile joint while the low back should be more of a stable one when talking about day to day tasks or golf specific movements. Hip inward rotation (turning towards lead leg on downswing – 1st picture belwo) and outward rotation (turning away from lead leg on backswing – 2nd picture below) are the main culprits for why people struggle with low back issues. 

Inward Rotation Of Lead Hip

Outward Rotation Of Lead Hip

Swing Volume Management

As much as golfer’s don’t want to admit it, the amount of swings they take is a key factor. How many swings golfers take during practice each week can definitely contribute to why pain may be present. The repetitive accumulation of swings from practice to playing on the course is usually a factor that isn’t brought up often in managing pain. If you only are required to take a handful of full swings throughout the course of a round, then why are so many golfers hitting hundreds of balls before playing to “get ready.” This is a key conversation that we have with our golf athletes to ensure they understand all the aspects of why they are experiencing discomfort. 

How many practice swings do you actually need to hit?

Summary

There are a number of different reasons for why someone might experience back pain during golf. However, the three things we listed above can be a difference maker in a person’s experience on the course. I think the majority of golfers would rather enjoy dinner and a few drinks after a round of golf compared to going home immediately because they need medications to help them feel better. That is no way to play a sport that you love and want to play frequently! If you have any questions about any of the things we discussed in this article then please let us know! Fill out the form below so you can reach us directly on how we can help you get back on track to playing pain free golf!