Lower back pain in golf, it's not just tiger!

Lower Back injuries are commonly seen in the golfing community, the most high profile recent case being Tiger Woods. Primarily this back pain can occur due to the amount of rotation needed in the swing action. To explain why this occurs, let’s first look at the spine.

The spine is divided into three parts: upper (cervical), middle (thoracic) and lower (lumbar).

The middle spine is where your ribs are. This section is best designed for rotation and turning.

The lower spine is best designed for bending up and down.

Different parts of the spine are good for different movements because of the way the joints are positioned. A sudden rotation movement in the lower spine can therefore injure a joint in that area, especially if there is not enough flexibility for that movement.

The modern golfer aims for a lot of rotation in their spine to achieve a full backswing and therefore generate more power to hit the ball further. If the golfer has a relatively stiff middle back, they will try to rotate their lower back as well to help wind up in the backswing. Again, rotating through the lower back can cause injury to the joints (Lumbar facet joints) and this is why lower back pain in golf is so common in the weekend golfer.

So how can physiotherapy help?

A physiotherapist will be able to assess the golfer’s spinal mobility and golf swing action.

This can then enable the physiotherapist to:

– treat lower back pain and relieve symptoms

– increase mobility in the spine with specific exercises

– correct swing technique if appropriate or discuss further review with a golf professional

– strengthen muscles that help stabilise the lower spine



– warm-up before golf and take practice swings to reduce the chance of injury

– maintain your fitness levels to reduce effects of fatigue whilst out on the course

– reduce spinal stiffness with regular exercises.


Happy golfing!


Written by Jarrad Zylstra, Physiotherapist. Comments and Feedback Welcome.

FEBRUARY 26, 2015

Cole M. H, Grimshaw P. N. (2008) Electromyography of the trunk and abdominal muscles in golfers with and without low back pain. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 11, 174-181

Reed J. J, Woodsworth L. T. (2010) Lower Back Pain in Golf: A Review. Curr. Sports Med. Rep., 9, 57-59