The most common golf injuries result in low back pain. This is because soft tissue damage in the low back is common among golfers. Soft tissue damage is a strain or sprain of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons and can surprisingly painful and debilitating. Fortunately, this is a condition that can be treated effectively with chiropractic care.
When you drive the golf ball off the tee you’re putting a lot of stress on the muscles and other soft tissues in the lower back. That’s why there’s a relatively high rate of injury in golf, even among touring professionals. When these soft tissues are strained or injured, it can be very painful. While a strained back muscle may seem like a minor injury, the resulting pain and muscle spasms can be surprisingly severe, keeping the most avid golf fanatics out of the game for weeks at a time.
Common Golf Injuries Result in Low Back Pain
Let’s start our discussion of low back pain with a brief lesson in anatomy. Your lumbar spine i.e lower spine, is an intricate network of bones, discs, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Low back pain is generally caused by damage (strains or sprains) to the soft tissues, i.e. the muscles, tendons and ligaments, that support the lower spine.
Now that we have the basics of anatomy down, it’s time to look at the reason why common golf injuries lead to back pain.
Every golfer’s goal is to create a swing paths that produces the most power. Your golf instructor has no doubt informed you that you can increase ball velocity by maximizing separation between your upper torso and pelvis at the top of and initiation of your down swing. Well, you should listen to your golf pro, because research proves this is true.1 Master this technique and you’ll be crushing the ball off the tee. However, by doing so you’re putting severe pressure on the muscles and other soft tissues in your lower back. Some estimates indicate that professional golfers experience about 7500 N of compressive force on the spine during the downswing. This is about eight times the weight of the average human. This force is comparable to the compressive forces calculated for football linemen while striking a blocking sled.2,3
Common Golf Injuries of the Back Include:
Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain
Many people will call a muscle strain a“pulled muscle,” even though the cause of pain may be an injury to a ligament. Low back muscle strain is often a repetitive stress injury. Symptoms of muscle strain can range from soreness to a sharp, debilitating pain. If the pain radiates into the buttocks or down the leg, this is a symptom of something far more serious and needs to be addressed with your chiropractor.
When it comes to muscle strains, the good news is that stopping activities that cause the pain will often lead to the pain resolving itself. The bad news is, it may take a month or more to heal without treatment. In addition to taking you off the course for weeks, you’ll still need treatment to address the lingering muscle stiffness, fascial restrictions, joint fixations or movement alterations as a result of the initial injury.
A disc injury is an example of a mechanical golf back injury. A series of bones separated by rubbery discs makes up your spine. These discs act as cushions between each of the bones that make up the spine. When a disc the soft center of a rubbery disc is pushing through a crack in the tougher exterior casing, it is said to be “herniated” or bulging. If you ignore the pain and continue putting stress on the disc, the soft center may begin to ooze out in what’s often called a “ruptured disc.” These discs are also susceptible to degenerative changes over time.
Symptoms of a disc injury include 4:
- radiating pain into the buttocks and leg
- pain and numbness, most commonly on one side of the body
- pain that extends to your arms or legs
- pain that worsens at night or with certain movements
- pain that worsens after standing or sitting
- pain when walking short distances
- unexplained muscle weakness
- tingling, aching, or burning sensations in the affected area
Just like every other joint in your body, spinal joints can become arthritic, causing bone spurs and osteophytes. These changes are very common in people over the age of 55. Most arthritic problems in the spine create sharp pain with certain movements – like swinging a golf club. The resulting inflammation from arthritic changes in your spine can cause chronic, dull pain. . Your chiropractor can also help if the pain is related to abnormal alignment and movement patterns in the spine.
Treating Low Back Pain for Golfers
Treatment of low back pain in golfers should take a two pronged approach.
First, you should address your current physical symptom of low back pain. A visit to a chiropractor who understands the mechanics of the golf swing is critically important.
Chiropractic treatment often includes spinal manipulation. It also includes other treatments such as:
- therapeutic exercise,
- therapeutic ultrasound,
- soft tissue mobilization,
- spinal traction,
- cold laser therapy,
- transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS).
Your chiropractor will utilize several therapies to address the injury as well as the lingering muscle stiffness, fascial restrictions, joint fixations or movement alterations.
Addressing Swing Mechanics
To prevent future injury, you should address flaws in your swing that may have caused the initial injury. Your golf pro can help you to create an optimal movement pattern in the areas directly above and below the lumbar spine – the hips and thoracic spine. This will be nearly impossible to do if your back is hurting. That’s why it’s important to first treat the injury and then address the cause of the injury.