No sport puts more stress on the spine than golf, and all too often, Chiropractors see golfers reaching for pain killers to keep them on the links. Low back injuries are the MOST common injury in golf, (1) but the “cover it up approach” never addresses the causes of the problem. As sports trained and certified chiropractors (CCSP)**, Dr. Leatherman and Dr. Bak are keenly aware of why theses spinal injuries occur.
If it wasn’t the absolutely necessary component of golf, the movements involved with the golf swing would be banned by most chiropractors … seriously! The one-sided, rotary and repetitive nature of the golf swing makes it a common cause for back injuries. Statistics affirm that one out of every two golfers (all players professional and amateur level) will incur a lower back injury at some point during their playing career. (2) Epidemiological studies have shown that lower back pain (LBP) from golf account for between 18% and 54% of all documented ailments (3) Regardless, Dr. Leatherman and Dr. Bak both want to help you participate while reducing your risk of injury. There are several reasons why the golf swing can be so injurious.
- The swing requires great flexibility for power, which most people lack.
- The swing requires good posture and a proper spinal shape, which is also uncommon.
- The power move in golf is always one-sided, leading to muscle and joint imbalances.
According to Butch Harmon, one of the foremost authorities on the golf swing, in order for golfers to generate more power and more distance, they are coached to “feel their arms staying in front of the body as they turn back.” (4) Todd Anderson, a Golf Digest teaching professional, goes into more detail by suggesting that a proper backswing should see “the shoulders starting parallel to the target line and turning 90 degrees, the hips turning to 45 degrees, and the knees turning to 22 degrees.” (5) This means the backswing and downswing both generate increased spinal twist and loading also known as torque.
Compounding this amount of torque is the near-maximum acceleration in the downswing, most golfers swing as hard as they can, which can be a recipe for spinal disaster. “The impact and follow-through phase of the golf swing account for the most injuries when compared to other phases.” (6) Repeating this move approximately 70 times per round, as well as thousands of swings on the range, makes it difficult to stay injury-free over the course of your golfing life. The golf swing requires flexibility not only in the spine, but also in the shoulders and hips. To ensure that you have the flexibility to allow you to take a proper golf swing, having a sports trained chiropractor like Dr. Leatherman or Dr. Bak measure the range of motion of these joints is very important. Muscular tightness or spinal rigidity in these areas can be addressed with passive and active stretching, active rehab exercises, spinal adjustments, and spinal traction to help these tissues gain proper mobility.
Good Posture for the Set Up
The SET UP is the golfer’s starting position when addressing the ball, and proper posture is of huge importance. When a golf pro is asked to create a good, repeatable golf swing, one of the first tasks is to establish a proper set up. Often, golf pros will find that the student cannot approximate proper posture let along maintain it due to alterations of the spinal curves. Maintaining natural curves throughout the spine with good posture ensures that maximum rotation will be achievable in both the backswing and the follow through.
To illustrate the effect of proper spinal posture, sit on a bench and allow your body to slouch. Cross your arms, placing your hands on opposite shoulders. Then, try to rotate fully to one side, then the other. Ask someone to observe how far you can go. Try again, but this time start by sitting upright first. Notice how much further your spine can rotate when you start with good spinal posture. (7)
Asking your chiropractor if your spine has the proper spinal curve when standing normally for the golf swing is just a reference. You really need to digitally measure the posture and curves on x-ray while comparing them to the normal values for a proper assessment. (8) If you suffer from restrictions and displacements in your body, these could be preventing you from achieving normal postural positions. And it could be taking 10, 20 or 30 yards off your best drives! Dr. Leatherman and Dr. Bak are also trained and certified in Chiropractic Biophysics (CBP) ** structural correction of the spine. So Integrity Chiropractic has the proper tools in office to actually correct abnormal spinal curves in addition to functional stability.
Unilateral Repetition Sport Requires Special Attention
The amount of effort exerted by most amateur golfers when driving a golf ball has been estimated at 90 percent of their peak muscular activity. This level of exertion has been compared to those used in sports like football, hockey and martial arts. (7) This amount of physical effort, combined with the one-sided nature of the swing, requires a lot of special attention. If a person is not careful, over-exertion can easily lead to stress and strain. In fact, golfers repeatedly experience minor traumatic injuries to the spine, which over time can result in a pathogenic process termed ‘repetitive traumatic discopathy.’ (9)
Integrity chiropractic rehab protocols are effective at re-establishing proper biomechanics in and around every joint of the body. Chiropractic adjustments have been proven more effective in improving swing mechanics than stretching alone. (10) However, maintaining proper function remains a golfer’s responsibility. Preparation for golf should include an adequate warm-ups, proper stretching, lots of core stabilization training, and spinal manipulation. According to Dr. LaFountain, director of chiropractic services for the PGA, 72 % of pro golfers receive regular chiropractic care provided by PGA chiropractic staff. (11)
It’s really no surprise that majority of PGA professionals have chiropractors join them when they go on tour. For the amateur golfer, the local chiropractic office is the best place to correct and maintain your spinal mechanics and maximize your golf swing, and Integrity Chiropractic is here to help you … “stay the course”.
** The CCSP, and CBP post-doctoral certifications are highly recognized throughout the country, however the Florida Chiropractic Board WILL NOT recognize a certification that is not a diplomate program. The board requires the following: “The specialty recognition identified herein has been received from a private organization not affiliated with or recognized by the Florida Board of Chiropractic Medicine”. Section 64B2.
1. Finn C. Rehabilitation of low back pain in golfers: from diagnosis to return to sport. Sports Health. 2013;5(4):313–319. doi:10.1177/1941738113479893 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3899905/
3. Lindsay DM, Vandervoort AA. Golf-related low back pain: a review of causative factors and prevention strategies. Asian J Sports Med. 2014;5(4):e24289. doi:10.5812/asjsm.24289 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4335481/
4. Anderson T. Power – Load it and let it go. Golf Digest 2010; 61(1): 68-71.
5. Harmon B. Nick Watney’s power pointers: How he became a great driver – you can, too. Golf Digest 2010; 61(2): 68-71.
6. McHardy A, Pollard H, Luo K. Golf-related lower back injuries: an epidemiological survey. J Chiropr Med. 2007;6(1):20-26 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647075/
7. Blanchard J. & Finkel L. Chiropractic and Golf: A therapeutic treatment and prevention program. http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com /mpacms/dc/article.php?id=1833
8. Oakley PA, Harrison DD, Harrison DE, Haas JW. Evidence-based protocol for structural rehabilitation of the spine and posture: review of clinical biomechanics of posture (CBP) publications. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2005;49(4):270–296. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17549209/
9. Walker CT, Uribe JS, Porter RW. Golf: a contact sport. Repetitive traumatic discopathy may be the driver of early lumbar degeneration in modern-era golfers. J Neurosurg Spine, 2019 https://thejns.org/spine/view/journals/j-neurosurg-spine/31/6/article-p914.xml
10. Costa SM, Chibana YE, Giavarotti L, et al. Effect of spinal manipulative therapy with stretching compared with stretching alone on full-swing performance of golf players: a randomized pilot trial. J Chiropr Med. 2009;8(4):165–170. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2009.06.002 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2786229/