My name is James and I am one of the lead physiotherapists at South Coast Physiotherapy. I would like to welcome you to my first ever blog for which I have decided to write a little about a common complaint which I am regularly treating at the clinic. Living on the Mornington Peninsula we are fortunate to have a plethora of high quality golf courses. Golf is a great past time which offers the perfect low impact exercise which, as physiotherapists, we encourage our patients to partake in.
There are, however, injuries associated with playing golf and none more common than low back pain which has been found to make up 25% of all golf related injuries and is certainly an injury we see a lot coming through the doors at the clinic. Interestingly low back pain has not only been shown to be the most prevalent golfers injury but also has been shown to have a significant effect on the efficiency of a players swing with research showing back pain reduces downswing velocity by up to 50%.
One of the reasons for the prevalence of these low back injuries is the biomechanics associated with the golf swing. The golf swing involves an asymmetrical rotational velocity with the slow back swing going away from the body and then a fast and powerful downswing in the opposite direction. This creates an imbalance through the lower back (lumbar spine) with one side of the spine being put under more stress than the other.
Added to this imbalance is the repetitive nature of the golf swing. Be it with taking numerous practice swings before each shot during a round of golf or with going through a bucket of balls on the driving range, an average golfer is going through a high number of golf swings on each outing. This high repetition, along with the natural biomechanical imbalance of a golf swing, creates the perfect storm in regard to either disc or facet joint injuries to the lumbar spine. It is therefore vital to reduce this risk by ensuring that your lumbar spine has both the necessary stability and mobility to tolerate these loads.
Studies looking at these lower back injuries have shown that by assessing the golfer’s spinal mobility and the stability of the pelvis and trunk you can have an idea of how vulnerable they are for these injuries. Two of the major areas we look at as clinicians is the rotation through the mid back area (the thoracic spine) and muscle power through the oblique and transverse abdominal muscle groups. Golfers who maintain good trunk rotation through their thoracic spine and equal muscle power through their abdominals are less likely to have lower back issues.
Added to this are the unavoidable daily activities such as work, driving and family commitments that can add to these risk factors. Either prolonged sitting at work or in the car will lead to increased spinal stiffness and the tight time scales of a busy family life can mean that there is less opportunity to do warm exercises or mobility and conditioning work.
Therefore I have found that individualised programmes based on a players specific deficits in either spinal movement or core strength which take into account these added risk factors has been the best way of managing low back pain and minimising the risks of future injury.
Thank you for reading my first ever blog and I hope it has been an interesting and informative read. If you have any queries regarding golf related back injuries then please get in touch and I would be happy to help.