Here at Par4Success, we see a lot of clients for either back pain or golf-related injuries so we’re pretty familiar with what happens when the two overlap. What we’ve found is that there are two major reasons behind back pain in golfers.
The first doesn’t start with the back at all; it happens when your hips move forward during your swing. This compromises your posture overall, and means you have to compensate with your hands in order to hit the ball properly. This error in swing technique is called early extension, and it is one of the most common swing faults we see. With early extension, because you’re coming up out of posture, you lose the ability to maintain stabilization and rotate through the ball in an effective and efficient manner.
The second swing fault we often see can go hand in hand with early extension. Hanging back occurs when you don’t get your weight into your lead leg (the left leg in a right-handed player). Because you’re not shifting your weight correctly, you might be unable to rotate into your lead hip which causes your spine to have to bend to the side. Particularly when combined with early extension, this is a lot of stress on your back which can lead to pain. Check out our home assessment to see if you have enough hip internal rotation.
Why do these swing faults occur, though? It can be easy to make these mistakes even if you’re aware that they’re a problem. A lack of internal hip rotation, especially in the lead hip, minimizes your ability to rotate through your swing, forcing you to hang back. This is the most common physical limitation we see that causes these swing faults, and in turn, back pain. Another muscular problem that can cause pain for golfers is when their hip flexors are too tight. When these muscles are too tight, it can become difficult to get into proper posture to swing the club, forcing you to arch your back, rather than bending at the waist. Keeping your back arched like this puts it under a lot of stress, leading to pain.
Fixing limitations in the hip flexors can be easy, and if you’ve seen some of our other content, the method should be very familiar. First, find a softball or lacrosse ball (or another ball of similar size, as long as it’s hard and rigid – a tennis ball is too soft). Then, lay on the ground with the ball under your hip, as in the diagram below. Cross the ankle on the same side as the ball over the other knee, then roll the ball around with your hip until you find a spot that’s especially sore. Then, move the leg on the same side as the ball back and forth. If you’re doing it right, this should hurt! Keep this up for 10 to 30 seconds and then look for another spot. This can really increase your hip mobility, which improves your posture and takes a lot of work off your back.