Whether you are a novice player, seasoned amateur, or professional golfer, you’ve likely experienced low back pain from playing the game of golf. Studies show that low back pain is the most common golf injury amongst amateur and professional golfers, making up approximately 15-55% of all documented injuries.
Due to the nature of the sport with repetitive asymmetrical and high-velocity movement, golf injuries are very common.
The three most common golf injuries causing low back pain:
- Disc injury (the tissue between vertebrae bony segments)
- Facet syndrome (injury to the joints of the back)
- Sprain/strain of soft tissue (excessive stress of muscular and connective tissue)
What Causes Low Back Pain Golf Injuries?
The cause of low back pain is multifactorial in nature. It holds true in the field of orthopedic medicine for the average person and the sport-specific avid golfer and fitness-related weekend warriors.
First, let’s discuss the concept of the victim versus the culprit for low back pain golf injuries.
Victim: Low back pain presents itself in the lumbar spine with the above listed injuries.
Culprit: This is the root cause of injury. The culprit is often due to repetitive overuse, excessive stress, and poor mechanics.
Overuse is (somewhat of) an easy problem to fix. You won’t like this solution, but it is effective: play less golf! While this likely sounds terrible for the avid golfer and certainly detrimental to the professional golfer, I have good news for you. It is a temporary solution to reduce pain and irritation in your low back pain. Essentially, we are calming down the victim in this scenario. Give your body rest between days of golf to allow sufficient tissue healing.
You may ask, “won’t my pain come back when I return to my normal frequency of play?” Unless you modify your swing posture and mechanics, absolutely. Therefore, it’s important to address your low back’s culprit and root cause. First, let’s look at your body’s proper mechanical function.
General Body Mechanics
The body operates in alternating regions of stability and mobility. The lumbar spine is meant to be a stable region where it should move primarily in one plane of motion (bending forward and extending backward). The joints above and below the lumbar spine (thoracic spine and hips, respectively) are more mobile joints that move in multiple planes of motion. If the thoracic spine and hips have limited motion, excessive stress can be placed on the lumbar spine and cause injury.
Common Faulty Posture And Swing Mechanics That Can Lead To Low Back Pain
- S-posture: excessive arch into extension of your low back
- C-posture: excessive arch into flexion of your low back
- Sway during back swing: excessive lateral motion beyond trail leg
- Reverse spine angle: spine points toward the target at top of the back swing
- Excessive spine rotation with upper and lower trunk dissociation
- Early upright extension in the downswing
- Excessive side bend to trail leg in the downswing
- Hanging back and trunk not following through at impact
You may or may not understand some of this golf and medical terminology, pending your experience in this area. Not to worry, there are some overlapping concepts here, and I will help simplify them for you.
Minimize the amount of extension or backward bend throughout your swing. This concept is important to maintain at stance setup, during your backswing to the peak of wind up, and especially important through your downswing and impact.
Given the high velocity of movement through the downswing when striking the ball, your back is prone to injury in this phase of the golf swing.
It is crucial to minimize the extension here, which will prevent your lumbar spine’s joint spaces from closing down rapidly, causing inflammation and injury to the joint segment.
Minimize the amount of side bend toward your trail leg. Similar to strategy #2, this is specifically important during the downswing and at impact. Mechanically, this reduces the amount of pressure that closes down on the right sided joints of your lumbar spine (if you are a right handed player) which can induce significant low back pain. The photo below shows a normal swing (1) and a swing with excessive side bending (2).
Thank you for reading 3 Strategies to Prevent Low Back Pain Golf Injuries.
We hope it has helped you understand more about your low back pain from golfing and what you can do to alleviate the symptoms.
Please visit our Golf Injuries page to learn more about our approach to rehabilitation for golf injuries.
If Pain Is Preventing You From Being Active – WE CAN HELP!
Smith JA, Hawkins A, Grant-Beuttler M, Beuttler R, Lee SP. Risk Factors Associated With Low Back Pain in Golfers: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Health. 2018 Nov/Dec;10(6):538-546. doi: 10.1177/1941738118795425. Epub 2018 Aug 21. PMID: 30130164; PMCID: PMC6204638.
Lindsay DM, Vandervoort AA. Golf-related low back pain: a review of causative factors and prevention strategies. Asian J Sports Med. 2014 Dec;5(4):e24289. doi: 10.5812/asjsm.24289. Epub 2014 Nov 10. PMID: 25741420; PMCID: PMC4335481.