You see it all the time on television with over-the-counter medication commercials. There's a middle-aged man on the golf course with his hands grabbing his lower back. The sport that all of us love is robbed from us by the back pain inflicted when we lack quality movement.
Lower back pain is the most common injury suffered by recreational golfers, according to the Mayo Clinic. On the current Injury Report by the PGA, 7 out of 20 professionals are sidelined due to back injury (4 of these injuries are undisclosed). In a sport that produces high amounts of torque on the upper and lower extremities as well as the spine, it's virtually impossible to prevent all lower back injuries. However, there are routes we could explore in order to improve our chances of avoiding injury.
When it comes to lower back injuries, we have to account for all the possible factors that could equate to injury. Poor swing mechanics, lack of adequate mobility, and poor lifestyle habits are three major problems present in most of the golfers we've come across to date.
As we've mentioned previously, we aren't swing coaches. We could however, improve the way a client moves and feels tremendously through proper movement and healthy behavioral changes. Today, we'd like to focus primarily on movement at the hips to help relieve any lower back issues you might be dealing with.
So, why are the hips typically the culprit?
A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research notes that poor hip mobility can alter lumbar spine kinematics. Basically, when the hips do not move well, the spine has to pick up the slack. This leads to tightness, decreased elasticity of joints and the muscles involved in moving these joints. Eventually, this combination leads to pain that we think will wear off through rest and pain medication. This isn't the case as we all know; any injury you've previously had is prone to rear its ugly head again in the future.
Hip and torso rotation are two of the most important characteristics required for a fluid and powerful golf swing. If your hips lack the necessary mobility and stability required to swing a club, other areas will have to make up for the lack of motion. When there's less elasticity in your golf swing, that tight spine of yours will suffer from increased forces and angles that would be absorbed if you had the necessary mobility requirements.
We understand that this sounds negative, but there's hope to correcting these mobility restrictions. Below are two of our favorite drills that will improve your hip mobility for a pain-free golf game:
Active Straight Leg Raise
The active straight leg raise is a great mobility drill that mimics the hip hinge position. Lack of mobility on either side can effect your ability to get into your optimal golf posture. Compensation at the hips can lead to excessive movement at the lower back, which we're trying to avoid. Proper dissociation of the hips from the spine will lead to better maintenance of golf posture, which will improve the overall dynamics of your swing.
Hip Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs)
We use Hip CARs with every single one of our clients that works with us. The only exception is for clients that deal with Femoralacetabular Impingement (A bony block that occurs at the hip joint), which is another topic for another day. We use CARs because they help teach you how to properly control the hip joint throughout its entire range of motion. The ranges that we don't properly control are typically the positions that we get injured in. Therefore, it's crucial to control as much of our joint's ranges of motion as much as possible.