With the recent good weather and opening of golf courses many eager golfers are taking to the courses. The number one complaint of both recreational and professional golfers is low back pain, especially as the season starts.
Part of the pain can be due to the unaccustomed activity, this pain should settle within a few days and works itself out during the first few rounds. More concerning is low back pain that is a result of a golf game or practice session that lingers more than 2 days. It is important to consider all factors when assessing low back pain in golf.
The factors that should be assessed are the biomechanics of the spine, golf swing mechanics, poor flexibility and conditioning as well as the training techniques utilized.
The golf swing requires high levels of bending and twisting forces. Low back pain is more common on the ‘trail’ side of the low back. The ‘trail ‘side would be on the right for a right handed golfer. The ‘trail’ side is under considerable stress during the clubs impact with the ball due to the combination of compression and side bending.
The low back is under more stress especially with a ‘hip slide’, a steep swing plane and too upright a finish position. Most improper swing mechanics that cause low back pain can be traced back to improper set up position and improper hip rotation. Correct posture at ball set up is the first place to start. Proper position would be; back straight with normal spinal curves, knees and hips bent to 25-30° and both feet turned out slightly. (See Picture Below)
A manual therapist can also assess and treat any mechanical problems such as stiff lumbar, sacroiliac or hip joints. Tight muscles can be treated with soft tissue techniques and stretching. An exercise program would also be taught to strengthen weak muscles, stretch overly tight muscles. Basic golf drill exercises will be taught to correct the swing mechanics. More complicated swing mechanics are best analyzed by golf teaching professionals.
Other things to consider while golfing are the importance of proper warm-up prior to golfing which would involve hitting balls at the practice range and gentle stretching. If you use a cart it should be pushed around the golf course, except on downhills where it is safer to have the cart behind you. If you chose to carry clubs you should use a lightweight bag with backpack type straps.