Back pain in golf…. Something I help my clients with every day and is usually totally avoidable. Unfortunately most golfers have back injuries at some point during their lives. This blog post is dedicated to trying to help you avoid back pain and improve your swing, read on!
One major muscle group responsible for poor posture and back pain in golfers is the Hip Flexor muscle group. Most golfers don’t realize that the hip flexor is made of of 3 muscles; the psoas, the illiacus and the rectus femoris muscles. Together they flex the hip, which results in bending at the waist. So, every time you set up over a golf ball you are using your hip flexors to maintain golf posture. As I am sure you are sitting there reading this right now thinking…. ok, I use that muscle group a lot! The Psoas muscle is generally the major culprit in creating back pain. It originates on the front of the lumbar spine (low back) and inserts on the front of the hip. Tightness in this muscle group can lead to swing flaws like loss of posture, swaying or sliding and not finishing your swing.
So…..isn’t that a good thing???? Normally, it is but when people develop tightness in those muscles it creates a pulling force on the low back instead of a supporting force and over time starts to create pain. Hip flexor tightness makes it impossible to perform a posterior tilt of the pelvis and traps your low back into a permanently arched position (lordotic). Why should you care??? Well, being able to posteriorly tilt your pelvis is an essential component to a healthy golf swing. Tilting the pelvis posteriorly allows your low back (lumbar spine) to be more stable and requires your lower abdominal musles to contract, which adds stability and power to your swing. All good things! Less pain, more consistent posture and more power!!!
Ok so how did they get tight? This is something I have thought about way too much over the last 15 years as a Physical Therapist and golf trainer. My theory is that it happens for two reasons. The first is the dreaded chair! Most of us sit way too much these days. When you sit in a chair your hip flexors naturally shorten, over years of working and couch surfing (sitting on the couch watching tv or reading) the hip flexor muscle group begins to get incredibly tight. The second is the incredible amount of walking we do as golfers, over 5 miles per round, will make your muscles tight unless you spend some time stretching and using the foam roller/spikey ball after your round. In my experience as a Physical Therapist this is something golfers rarely do. Hard to avoid working and walking right! This is a phenomena that I have noticed developing in my junior golfers as well and seems to start around 4th or 5th grade as kids are going through growth spurts and sitting for long periods of time at school and playing video games.
Now that we know what the hip flexor is and how it can impact the golf swing, what can we do to fix it? Foam roller and spikey ball work on the front of the hip can really help but this article is going to focus on an exercise that stretches the muscle. Put a pillow on the ground or roll up a mat. Kneel on the pillow with your right knee down on the ground and your left leg in front with your hip and knee bent at 90 degrees. Actively pull your stomach in to stabilize you low back, place your hands on the front of your right hip and slowly slide forward so your weight goes over your forward foot. You should feel a stretch under your hands, hold for 1-2 min then switch sides (If the first version is easy try grasping your right foot with your right hand). Remember to keep your chest up and facing forward, it is easy to allow the tightness in your hip flexors pull your chest down during the stretch. Check out this video on my YouTube channel MPowerPhysTherapy
Neck pain is a challenging injury for all golfers. It typically manifests itself either while carrying the bag or during the swing. Both can be problematic for your golf game. Most of my clients describe being unable to complete a swing while suffering from neck pain. Almost all non traumatic (pain not resulting from an injury, pain that just starts one day and your unsure why) is the result of poor posture and tight muscles
From a golf swing perspective a loss of neck mobility will impact your shoulder turn in both your backswing and through swing. Essentially you could flatten your shoulders plane or stand up during the swing to compensate for the loss of neck motion from neck pain. Both are bad but not as bad as being in pain so let’s stop talking about the why and get to the good stuff…..
Spikey balls are great for improving neck pain related to muscle tightness, there are a lot of different ways you can use them to help your neck. Today we are going to talk about one of those ways. You might be surprised to know that your head actually turns at the very top of your neck and there are quite a few little muscles dedicated to performing the simple turns and tilts of your head. With all the time we spend driving, watching TV and looking at electronic devices that part of our neck gets incredibly tight. Pretty soon the muscles are so tight that they are no longer able to perform their jobs and our necks no longer move properly. But hey guess what we still move our heads anyway, which means we are asking the lower part of our neck to do something it was not designed to do. Magically over time this turns into a statement like…”hey man, my neck hurts” as you set up on the tee. Your buddy gives you the look….”sure it does, you aren’t getting any strokes for that”
Grab a spikey ball and walk over to the wall, feel the back of your head, there is usually a point or ridge (the ridge runs horizontally) on the back of your head. Place the spikey ball just below it and hold it against the wall with just your head. Your shoulders should also be against the wall to avoid putting too much pressure on your head (see picture). Slowly turn your head right and left trying to keep the ball on the wall throughout the exercise. You should feel the spikey ball massaging the upper part of your neck and the back of your head. If you feel like you are going to drop the spikey ball, stop and reposition in. Perform 10-20 slow turns of your head. feel free to stop and hold over particularly sore spots and allow your muscle some time to relax.
This exercise will free up your neck and allow your head to turn better helping you to maintain better head position and shoulder plane throughout your swing. Have fun and play well!
If you do not have a spikey ball feel free to click on the link in the sidebar for my online store and order one today!
Do you know what an ITBand is?? No, it’s not a rock band! It is a giant tendon on the side of your thigh, which starts above your hip bone and ends below your knee. The official name for this tendon is the Illiotibial Band. Why do we care? Logical question! Well the reason we care is because it is a major contributor to sways and slides during the swing. Furthermore, it is hard to find a golfer who doesn’t deal with tightness in their ITBands. there are two main reasons why we as golfers develop tightness in the ITBand. The first is that as right handed golfers we shift into your left side during the down swing this creates a lot of pressure within the tendon and develops tightness within the ITband. The second is all of the walking we do during a round of golf.
So if you want to decrease your sway or slide in your golf swing dealing with this monster is a must! Fortunately it is easy to improve. Check out the video on my youtube channel MPowerPhysTherapy or click this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm9RgcFUlMk&list=UU_4E_plGx6QepvIMLzTLu8Q
The first thing you will need is a foam roller. Place the foam roller on the ground and lie on top of it with the roller under the side of your thigh halfway between the hip and knee. Using your hands and top leg roll your thigh up and down the roller keeping the roller between your knee and hip. Be careful not to roll over your hip or knee joint to avoid injury. Perform exercise for 1 min per side. Remember to have fun!
(click the strange link above to see the video) Neck immobility can really effect the golf swing, specifically your ability to maintain head and shoulder position. You should be able to turn your and touch your chin to your collar bone. If you can’t it means your neck is tight. Neck stiffness is usually caused by tight muslces in the “sub occipital” region of your neck. It is at the very top, just at the base of your head. Coincidnetally it is also a big time source for head aches! Awesome right! not only will you be helping your swing but if you suffer from headaches this should help too!
You have a couple of options. First, try this exercise. If you don’t have a spikey ball click “order online” in the sidebar to go to my store and buy 2, you will need both to perform all of the exercises. You can also use tennis balls but they are not as effective. I apologize because this video is a little rough but it was filmed for the Iowa State Cyclone Golf Program a few years ago. Do the exercise slowly and for about 1 min every day. If you neck is stiff from muscular tightness then it should help. If it does not consult your local Physical Therapist.
To those that I have worked with this will come as nothing new, but to those aren’t in the know… the spikey ball is a must have tool for improving your golf game and reducing pain. There are a ton of golf fitness exercises you can do with it and I am going to be posting videos of them over the next few weeks.
The spikey ball was developed for golf by a good friend of mine… Ramsay McMaster. Ramsay was a genius when it came to golf and how to optimize the human body for a golf swing. The spikey ball is great for improving tissue pliability or softening the tissue around your spine, shoulders, hips, chest and legs. The idea is simple, the more pliable your muscles are the better you will move during the golf swing. Plus, they are great for rehabbing injuries and improving golf fitness and they are easy to stow in a bag or trunk! Stay tuned for exercises over the next few weeks utilizing the amazing spikey ball.
Low back pain in golf plays a role in our ability to enjoy the game we love. The technical name for the “low back” is the lumbar spine region. During the golf swing it should be relatively stable in comparison to the “mid back” or thoracic spine and the hip joints. However, when we struggle with restricted shoulder turn and hip mobility a tremendous amount of pressure is placed on the lumbar spine region to move in a way that it was not designed to move. Often times this results in pain or loss of posture during the swing. This months exercise is great for improving the mobility of our rib cages which has a direct effect on improving shoulder turn. Thus, reducing the strain on our lumbar spine and improving health.
Place a foam roller on the ground, lie on your side over the roller with your rib cage in contact with the roll (if you have a choice start with a softer foam roll) as seen in the picture. Find a “sore” spot and hold your body in that position until the soreness starts to go away, usually 1-2 min. Then lift yourself up and move to a new spot, generally speaking most of us have a few “sore” spots along our rib cages. This exercise hurts a bit so be smart. If you experience sharp pain stop and try to find a softer roll or put a sweatshirt over the roller. If you have issues with loss of bone density consult your Physician before trying this exercise.