Do you suffer from lower back pain? If so, you’re not alone. Lower back pain is a common golf injury. In fact, 28.1 percent of all players suffer from lower back pain, says a recent report from TPI, which surveyed over 31,000 players. It’s also among the most common injuries pro golfers suffer. One report says about 23 percent of golfers deal with lower back pain.
But while your lower back is the site of the pain, it’s not usually the cause of it. Unusual motions in other parts of the body force the lower back to work excessively hard, creating pain. Often, it’s the lack of mobility in hips, thoracic spine, and shoulders that are the cause of the unusual motion. These moving parts working against each other can cause improper swing mechanics – which puts strain on the lower back.
When the back finally breaks down, it generates the following injuries: disc injury, muscle strain, altered joint mechanics, degenerative arthritis, and bone fracture. None of these injuries are fun to have.
Working the Core Muscles
Improve your swing mechanics and you will limit lower back pain. It takes time and hard work at the range to master your mechanics. In the meantime, you can minimize lower back strain by strengthening your core muscles. These include the rectus, oblique, and transverse abdominal muscles, as well as the erector spine, rhomboid muscles, and glutes. You should also work on strengthening the muscles involved in the hip flexion and extension.
Doing yoga strengthens these muscles. Yoga’s benefits are almost too numerous to describe. They include increased flexibility, muscle strength, and muscle tone; improved respiration, energy, and vitality; and enhanced cardio and circulatory and athletic health. Doing yoga may even help you lose a little weight.
The five yoga poses below can help you strengthen the key muscles in your body and limit the lower back pain from golf.
• Cat Cow — Start by getting down on all fours. Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your hips are over your knees. Spread your fingers as wide as you can. On the exhale, draw the navel toward the spine, while you press the spine toward the ceiling. Now tuck the chin into your chest. That stretches your upper back. On the inhale drop the spine down, pressing the thoracic spine toward the floor. Repeat 7 to 10 times.
• Modified Cobra Pose — Lie down on your stomach. Spread your fingers wide. Make sure they’re directly under your shoulders. Exhale squeezing the legs together to activate the glutes and quadriceps. While inhaling, lift your chin and chest off the floor keeping the elbows bent, creating a nice arc. Make sure you activate the rhomboid muscles while keeping the shoulders moving down away from your ears. Repeat this pose 5-7 times.
• Extended Table to Abdominal Crunch — Start on all fours, with your hands placed right under your shoulders and your hips are over your knees. On the inhale, extend your right leg back at hip level and the left arm forward with the thumb pointed up. Keep your hips parallel to the floor and flex the right foot. On the exhale, draw your navel to your spine while pulling the left elbow and knee in and arching your back. Switch sides. Repeat 7-10 times.
• Thoracic Mobility Pose — Lie down on your right side. After putting your head on a rolled up towel to support your neck, place your legs at a 90-degree angle to the body. Bring your palms together. Inhale while opening the hands and rolling your left shoulder blade to the floor. Make sure you keep the knees in place. Exhale and return to your starting position. Now do the other side. Repeat 5-7 times.
• Spinal Twist — Lie on your back with your arms perpendicular to the body, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Lift the feet slightly and inhale as you twist the legs to the right. Keep the shoulders in contact with the floor. On the exhale, bring your legs back to the center starting position. Initiate this movement from the oblique abdominal muscles. Switch sides. If you want to make this pose more of a challenge, lift your legs off the ground until there at a 90-degree angle.
Lower back pain is among the most common golf injuries. Strengthening your core muscles using the golf tips described above can help you eliminate lower back pain and increase flexibility. That, in turn, can help you hit longer, straighter shots and chop strokes off your scores and your golf handicap.