Lower back pain is a common problem amongst golfers. Sometimes the pain is at the base of the spine (SI joint), down the spine, across the spine, or in the muscles on the sides of the spine. It could even radiate down the leg. Common diagnoses associated with low back pain include degenerative disc disease, disc herniations, sciatica, and lumbar strains.
To obtain an accurate diagnosis, an examination would be needed. Although there are differences in how each of those conditions should be treated, there are common limitations that exist when it comes to playing golf and low back pain.
Some factors that contribute to back pain when playing golf include poor mechanics when swinging the club. Some golfers don’t know how to rotate at their hips and upper back. They may also have a hard time engaging their hip and buttock muscles. If this is the case, they may twist excessively at their lower back. Over time, this can cause back problems.
In other cases, low back pain with golf is associated with poor mobility of the hips and the t-spine. This can be combined with the weakness of the abdominal and lower back muscles. These imbalances may lead to movement compensations and faulty spine mechanics. The best way to know what exactly is contributing to back pain when playing golf is to have a movement assessment performed.
Once you know what your specific limitations are, the first common-sense recommendation is to take a short break from golf. This allows for an environment for irritation to settle down and healing to take place. While taking a break usually helps with pain, in order to get back to playing golf without pain, you will need to address the root problems.
If the lower back is flared up, hands-on therapy to alleviate pain and improve mobility should be performed. This can also be performed independently with a foam roller or lacrosse ball. Advanced treatment techniques include dry needling of the lower back muscles. If it is a relatively recent injury, having your spine manually manipulated can have a powerful effect on pain.
Once the acute pain has subsided, the next step is to perform activation exercises to engage muscles that are not firing well. Beginner exercises include bridges, active straight leg raises, and “angry cat” exercises.
Once muscles engage better, the next step is restoring movement. The torso and hips should be able to rotate through a full range of motion. Rotational exercises for the torso include the trunk stability rotation for the upper back and the prone lumbar extension/rotation for the lower back. Tall kneeling rotation with a kettlebell behind the back is a great exercise to work on hip rotation.
The next step is to develop strength through both rotational and straight planes of movement. Even golfers will benefit from exercises from squats, deadlifts, and lunges. However, strength exercises that incorporate some type of rotation are also important. Turkish get-ups, weighted chops, and weighted lifts will enable a golfer to develop a rock-solid back and continue to play golf for a long time.
Most of these exercises can be found in our video library.
When addressed with a specialized physical therapy program, playing golf without back pain is possible. However, ignoring pain and engaging in repetitive activity can result in a further decline of your back health. If you’re worried about your back pain, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to help you.
We invite you to request a back consultation with one of our specialists. This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your back pain, and foster confidence that we can help you. If you’re certain that we’re a good fit to work together, you can decide on the next step.
If you’re in pain but unsure about what you should do, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.