Low Back Pain and Golf

Chances are you’ve experienced it before… a dull ache, a sharp pain, or a burning sensation in your lower back. In some cases this pain will radiate down the back of the thigh into the calf. If you haven’t yet experienced this you likely will at some point in your life. According to a number of clinical studies, low back pain affects 80% of American’s during their lifetime. It is a leading reason, second only to the common cold, that individuals consult with their primary care physician.

Golfers are prone to a number of injuries, with low back pain (LBP) being the most common. It is estimated that LBP accounts for 26-52% of golf-specific injuries. It is also estimated that up to 30% of touring professional golfers play with low back pain at sometime during their careers.

Golf is a unique sport that is growing tremendously around the world. It can be played regardless of age, gender, or skill level (through “handicapping”). Between 1970 and 1990, the reported number of golfers in the United States alone more than doubled to 23 million. By the year 2000, there were more than 25 million golfers and 14,000 courses in the U.S. The World Golf Federation expects 55 million golfers by the year 2020.

It is well-known that axial twisting is a risk factor for LBP – the golf swing combines this motion with compression, side bending, and anterior/posterior (front/back) shear. This combination of motions is also a known risk factor for disc herniation and lumbar facet joint (joints of low back) injury. Kinematic studies have revealed that during a golf swing, the lumbar spine can sustain compressive loads of up to eight times body. As a comparison, similar studies on NCAA football linemen revealed compressive forces while hitting a blocking sled, and cadaveric studies have revealed that disc prolapse can occur at those loads. Facet joints (joints of the low back) take up 50% of the load during the rotational component of the golf swing thereby lending them to injury.

Perfecting a golf swing is no simple task. In fact, it is one of the most complex athletic skills out there. The swing itself can be broken into four major components: backswing or takeaway, forward swing, acceleration with ball strike, and follow-through. Golf professionals are experts in helping the golfer on these aspects of the swing. Physical therapists are experts in determining how well the body is moving through the swing and identifying tightness, weakness, stiffness, and/or abnormalities that may be causing or will cause injury. Beyond this, improving the flexibility and strength of given muscle groups can help improve the golfer’s game while also preventing injury.

At Mishock Physical Therapy & Associates (with locations in Gilbertsville, Skippack, Barto, Phoenixville, Limerick, and Stowe (Pottstown)), our role begins with an evaluation to determine the cause of the lower back pain. Following this we will provide education and explain to you why you are having pain and ways in which you can reduce the symptoms. For the golfer, it is important to individually determine what muscles need to be stretched and strengthened. We also take pride in the time we spend with hands-on techniques, which improve joint and soft tissue mobility and decrease pain levels by reducing abnormal stress on the spine. If you would like to try physical therapy, aquatic therapy, or chiropractic treatments please call us at (610)327-2600. For more information please visit www.mishock.wpengine.com or email questions to mishockpt@comcast.net. Dr. Mishock is one of a few clinicians with doctorate level degrees in both physical therapy and chiropractic in the state of Pennsylvania.

New patient scheduling: 610-327-2600