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04/28/2017

FORE! Keep Your Spine Flexible to Improve Your Golf Swing

If you've been fairly sedentary all winter and can't wait to hit the links, take note.

While age and skill may play a large role in affecting a golfer’s game, there are also obvious differences in overall conditioning and swing mechanics between the “professional” golfer and the “weekend warrior.”

The vast majority of golfers don’t necessarily think of conditioning their spine for the purpose of improving their game. Generally, the better a golfer is the more flexible and stronger he or she may be compared to the weekend golfer who can be stiffer and less agile. The stiffer and weaker your muscles are, the more likely you are to sustain muscle strains and muscle-tendon junction problems.

In the senior golfer, loss of strength, loss of flexibility and loss of coordination can take their toll on the spine. But, no matter the age, conditioning of the spine and muscles is important to avoid disc problems and other musculoskeletal injuries.

Having proper spinal alignment and flexibility is a vital factor in the proper mechanics of the golfer’s swing. Chiropractic adjustments to the spine can help reduce many of the muscle spasms and spinal misalignments as well as create better mobility.

Exercise geared toward increasing spinal flexibility are essential to returning a golfer to the game and correcting spinal misalignments is the key to improving coordination and focus on the game. Conditioning and strengthening the abdominal tone include sit ups performed gently while lying on a comfortable surface. Hamstring stretches, lateral side bending and gentle prone shoulder press ups are all excellent warm up exercises for increasing a golfer’s flexibility.

The most crucial factor in prevention of injury concerns modification to the swing. The “no strain swing” can be used in an effort to minimize lower back pain resulting from repeated spine hyperextension during aggressive play. This swing is comprised of three components:

  1. A relaxed posture at address
  2. A three-quarters back swing
  3. Increased hand action and a shorter finish

Keeping the head still and rounding the back at address will also serve to reduce lower back tension. Narrowing the putting stance will decrease postural strain as well.

A reverse-swing exercise is advocated for increasing flexibility on the principle that the golfer must balance muscle pull by performing the opposite of the normal swing mechanism. This is done by taking swings or upper extremity and pelvic rotations in the opposite direction repeatedly during warm-ups and exercise.

Other factors to think of inherent to the game itself are wearing spikeless shoes and avoiding bouncing golf carts to reduce chronic back pain during play. Flexing the knees while lifting a golf bag, avoiding unilateral carrying or lifting, switching shoulders while carrying a golf bag and taking care to keep the knees flexed when bending over should be part of any rehabilitation education program.

Lastly, being self-aware and educated about injury prevention is vital to keeping a golfer in the game. Most acute back pain problems that plague the golfing athlete are due to the golf swing itself. Therefore, modifying the swing, thereby reducing the stress and torsional forces on the spine, will not only aid in reducing injury but enhance the golfer’s game and overall physical fitness.