Many golfers suffer from some sort of injury at some point in their golfing careers. Lower back pain is the most common form of injury suffered by amateur golfers. It has also accounted for many a professional golfer’s career. Lower back pain is often the result of poor posture and overload on the structures of the lumbar spine.
In professionals this comes from the repetitive strain placed on the spine due to the strenuous practise regimes necessary to master this wonderful game. In amateur golfers it is due to a de-conditioned body and poor swing mechanics that place excessive strain on the lower back.
In many cases the lower back problem people complain of is actually not their problem at all! It is actually a symptom of a breakdown in the kinetic chain that is the human body.
We all acknowledge that the human body is designed to move and comprises a series of joints to allow this movement. Hence the term ‘kinetic chain’. The body needs to follow an alternating sequence of mobile and stable joints. If this sequence is compromised by injury or the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, the system is strained. If the muscles around a mobile segment are tight, it becomes stable. The joint next door will then give up its stability in order to add mobility to the chain. It is this compensating joint where you invariably experience your pain. So, lower back pain is usually the symptomatic problem caused by tight hips or an immobile thoracic spine. This is something common in people who sit for large portions of their day, especially if it is in front of a computer.
If you suffer from lower back pain, you may well have a structural problem in your lumbar spine that will require treatment from a medical practitioner. But if you do not address the lack of mobility in your hip joints, by increasing the flexibility in the muscles around the pelvis, you will struggle to overcome your back pain.
As such, I have included a number of good stretches you can perform to address these tight areas.
As I demonstrate in the exercise above, lie on your back and keep one leg straight. Bring your right knee to 90 degrees and hold it with your right hand. Now grab your right shin with your left hand, just above your sock. Make sure your foot is above your knee as shown. Then pull your leg across your chest by bringing your calf to the opposite shoulder. You’ll feel the stretch on the outside of the hip, in your glute. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds. Apply more reps to the side that feels tightest to correct imbalance.
90/90 Hip mobilisations
Sit on the ground with both legs bent at 90 degrees on the same side of the body as shown. Push your chest out to straighten your spine. Now drop your sternum to your knee to feel a stretch in your hip. Pause for two seconds and release. Complete 10 reps on that side before you change to the other side.
Kneeling hip flexors
Take up a half-kneeling position with arms folded across your shoulders with high elbows (this will ensure good posture). Now tuck your tail underneath you as shown. This will put the pelvis into a posterior tilt. You will feel the stretch from the waist down the thigh to the knee. Hold for five seconds and release. Perform five reps on one side before you change legs.
Garth Milne is a golf fitness specialist who trains a number of professionals on the world’s pro tours as well as emerging amateur players. He dedicates a lot of time to junior academies across South Africa,but is primarily based at the Serengeti Golf Academy where he and PGA pro Doug Wood run their Wanna Be A Champion programme.