How to Decrease Low Back Pain for Golfers

Published on 03/14/2023 · 5 min readPhysical Therapist and Curated Golf Expert Malutan Joshua shares some tips and suggestions on how to help avoid and treat lower back pain in golfers.
Joshua Malutan, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Joshua Malutan

Photo by Gene Gallin

As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I treat back injuries and low back pain daily. The prevalence is high in America and the average person suffers some level of chronic low back pain in their lifespan.

My favorite patients to work with are golfers with low back pain. It may not seem very common, but the average/amateur golfer comes in with complaints of low back pain on a daily basis. Some low back pain is so severe that they don’t have proper joint mechanics in their swing, have decreased muscle activation during their downswing, and even bending to chip and putt is difficult.

Low Back Pain Changes Our Swing Mechanics

Simply put, low back pain affects thousands of golfers and inhibits them from doing what they love. Sufferers often change their swing mechanics and posture because of muscle tissue strain.

Golfers also complain of pain in their backswing because of the centripetal force and the inability to have any spine angle during chipping or putting. To cope with the pain, they also start to have altered movement patterns in life.

My goal is to enable every golfer out there, no matter their skill level, to perform the proper exercises on their own to help decrease their low back pain, prevent injury, and keep playing the game we love.

What Research Shows

Research shows that any low back pain can be caused by decreased hip mobility, thoracic (mid-back) spine mobility, and core/hip strength. These three areas are key when determining how to decrease low back pain.

Since golf is a speed-generated sport, a golfer needs proper hip and thoracic spine mobility for proper force transmission at impact. The issue we run into is that most people lack that mobility which ends up transmitting force to our low back (lumbar spine) and causes pain.

Other Affiliated Problems

Our lumbar spine is made of five vertebrae that play a supporting role. All vertebrae have an intervertebral disc, facet joints, and spinal nerves exiting lateral canals. Because of various arthritic changes in a person's body, a disc injury (disc herniation), sciatica, ligamentous sprain, lateral spinal stenosis, chronic disc problems, disc bulge, and even soft tissue abnormalities such as muscle strains can all occur.

Our lumbar spine is not made to transmit rotational forces during our golf swing. Instead, it is the job of our hips to transmit and produce the force and stability required to complete our swing.

The compressive forces in our lumbar spine transmit up and down, not side to side like lateral bending. In isolation, our lumbar spine helps stabilize our pelvis. It is the duty of our hip mobility and the strength of our buttocks to provide the proper motor control during our swing.

In this article, I will list three important hip mobility exercises that anyone who loves to golf can implement in their daily life to help decrease their low back pain to golf pain-free. Injury prevention is key to playing golf throughout life! Happy exercising!

Exercises to Prevent Low Back Pain

1. Hip CARS

CARS or controlled articular rotations are a great exercise for all golfers who need or want to increase their hip mobility. With this motion, one hip is static while the other hip moves in all potential ranges of movement.

The movement takes the joint from hip flexion to hip abduction to hip IR (internal rotation), and down through hip extension. This is a great exercise to explore what ranges your hips like to move in and which ranges they don’t. CARS help to increase trunk rotation during your backswing and all the way through to ball impact.

Photos courtesy of Joshua Malutan

2. Seated Hip IR/ER

This is another controlled hip mobility exercise to improve hip external rotation (ER) and internal rotation (IR). External and internal hip rotations are very important in a golf swing. During a backswing, the lead leg enters hip internal rotation while the trail leg loads in hip external rotation.

During the downswing, our lead hip transitions into hip external rotation and our trail hip reverses into internal rotation. This transition between our hips into external and internal rotation is vital in producing force and decreasing tension and load in our lumbar spine.

Increased hip mobility allows for a more efficient transition in our swing while decreasing the high torsional force in our lumbar spine. Simply sit in a 90/90 position and rotate your hips over to the opposite side to work hip IR/ER on each leg.

Photos courtesy of Joshua Malutan

3. Frog Pose - Hip Adductor Stretch

This is an excellent stretch to increase hip mobility. The adductor muscle group is the hip muscles on the inside of our thigh responsible for providing support with any increase in hip force production.

The adductors get tight over time and cause a decrease in hip mobility, which results in more torsional force on our lumbar spine. Start in a quadruped (on all fours) position. Spread your knees apart until you feel a stretch in your groin. As you feel the stretch, maintain the width between your knees and push your hips back towards your ankle. This intensifies the stretch in your groin.

Conclusion

All these listed exercises are a great start for all golfers of all ages and skill levels to bulletproof their low back and to make sure they have proper hip mobility to increase power through their swing. For more help with your swing, reach out to a Golf Expert on Curated

If any back pain persists or anybody is experiencing sciatic-like symptoms, numbness, tingling, burning, and pain that does not go away, please reach out to your local physical therapist or physician for proper follow-up care. These exercises are for prehab purposes in order to avoid low back pain.

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