October 2011 – Low back pain in Golfers

Each physical activity carries its own set of commonly occurring injuries. This has given rise to a range of syndromes such as “runners knee”, “tennis elbow” and more recently, “x-box thumb”. Even gentle activities such as golf carry with them their own set of risk factors. Any golfer will tell you that low back pain is common place amongst players and this article will outline why it happens and what can be done to prevent it.

One of the most common injuries in golf is a strained disc in the low back at the lumbo-sacral junction. The lumbo-scacral junction is the lowest mobile segment of the spinal column. This part of the low back is an extremely important area of rotation in the body. It is also the fulcrum point for the very long lever that the spinal column forms. All forces from the body above converge onto the disc at this point. For this reason it is the most common location of back pain.

The lumbo-sacral junction disc is particularly vulnerable to rapid rotation and bending forwards. During a golf swing, both of these moves are used in combination. Bending forwards brings the club to the ball and rapid rotation comprises the swing. It is this unfavourable combination of the two that makes the low back especially susceptible to injury in golfers.

However, good technique vastly reduces the risk of injury whilst also improving your game! The key is in the hips. Bending forward from the hips instead of the low back before the swing braces the back and protects the lumbar discs. As the club swings and follows through, the hips should rotate instead of the lumbar spine. This transfers the torsional movements from the lumbar spine into the pelvis and the leg where they are safely dissipated.

If you are new to golf or have a history of low back pain, then golfing lessons could be an extraordinarily beneficial present to give to yourself, as well as a wise investment in your health.  It is always a good idea to see your Osteopath for a check-up before taking up any new sports. If you do develop back pain or stiffness during or after a game of golf then rest it and think about your technique. If it persists you should have it assessed and treated immediately, there may be other factors involved.

Have fun and stay injury free!

 

Geoffrey Hogan (M.Ost)
Registered osteopath

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