Low back pain during the golf swing can stem from many different underlying issues. One major reason we see low back pain in golf is due to a lack of hip mobility. Golf is a rotational sport and it is imperative that rotation is drawn from proper joints and joint complexes to avoid injury.
Without getting in to too much anatomy, the hip or femoroacetabular joint is a ball and socket joint. It is one of the most mobile and freely moving joints in the body. It has the ability to flex, extend, abduct, adduct, internally rotate, externally rotate, and a combination of these. For golf specifics internal rotation and external rotation are important for performance and avoidance of pain.
There is no question that the ability to rotate with power and velocity will serve you well on the golf course. Where you get that rotation from is the key to staying healthy and having a long golf career. For force to be transferred in the swing, the lumbar spine should remain relatively stiff with little rotation. The lumbar spine can typically rotate 10-15 degrees in either direction. That compares to about 90-100 degrees of total rotation in either hip. If there is a lack of rotation coming from the hips, the lumbar spine will become a primary region for rotation in the swing. Because the lumbar spine is not anatomically suited for rotation, this leads to many injuries. Under repetition, and the forces required for the golf swing, the lumbar spine will begin to breakdown.
HIP ROTATION ASSESSMENT
You can test your hip rotation either laying on your back (pictured left) or on your stomach (pictured right). Testing internal rotation the foot will rotate outward and away from the body, while testing external rotation the foot will rotate in and toward the body. You will naturally have more external rotation than internal rotation.
Here are some keys to look out for while assessing your hip rotation.
- Total rotation should be 80 degrees or more for optimal function.
- Total rotation of both hips should be within 10-15 degrees.
- Internal rotation should be between 30-50 degrees.
- External rotation should be between 40-60 degrees.
- Pain with rotation in either hip.
If you fail to meet any of these or have pain your hips could be an issue in your swing.