Golf Corner: Reverse Spine Angle and Low Back Pain

December 15, 2009 | by Dr. Jess

One of the more common swing faults I find when videotaping golfers is the “Reverse Spine Angle”. The Titleist Performance Institute found that 38.5% of amateur golfers have a reverse spine angle.  In the case of a right-handed golfer, the Titleist Performance Institute defines a reverse spine angle as  “any excessive upper body backward bend or excessive left lateral upper body bend during the backswing.”

Reverse spine angle compared to correct spine angle.

Reverse spine angle compared to correct spine angle.

Lumbar region

Lumbar region

Unfortunately, a reverse spine angle can set up a golfer for lower right back pain (for a right handed golfer) for two reasons:  First, if a golfer has a reverse spine angle, his/her upper body will tend to dominate the swing since the lower body is not in position to initiate the downswing.  The upper body initiation and domination will cause the body to switch from bending slightly to the left to rapidly crunching down on the right instead of the pelvis moving into rotation.  This rapid acceleration of the spine crashing down on the right low back can cause repetitive jamming of the lower lumbar/sacral joints and over time cause inflammation and arthritic changes.

Secondly, this swing fault can also cause the abdominal muscles (known to protect and stabilize the spine) to become inhibited and thus the low back vertebrae are left in a vulnerable position.

Muscles of the trunk.

Muscles of the trunk.

Causes:

Since I am not a golf pro, but a specialist in human movement, I will describe the most common physical causes of a reverse spine angle.  Please understand there are habit, technique, and golf club fit issues that can cause a reverse swing fault.

The most common physical causes are as follows:

  • Poor pelvic and shoulder dissociation.  The ability for your thoracic spine to rotate over your pelvis and on the spinal axis is needed to avoid side or backward bending during the backswing.  This can be due to a restricted spinal mobility or Latissimus Dorsi muscle.  Typically people with poor spinal or Latissimus Dorsi mobility cannot separate their shoulders from their pelvis.
  • Poor right internal hip rotation (in the right handed golfer.)  If the golfer cannot rotate the pelvis posteriorly on the right around the right leg, he/she will then be forced into a lateral sway, which will in turn, cause a reverse spine angle.
  • Poor core strength, spinal stability or pelvic stability.  If the golfer cannot stabilize their spine by using their spinal stabilizers, abdominal muscles, or glutes, the spine may end up being forced out of a proper spinal angle during the backswing due to excessive extraspinal forces dominating rotation beyond the core’s ability to stabilize.  The stronger the core, the more efficient golf swing because the spinal angle line can stay in the correct position while the shoulders rotate around it.  You lose your spine angle, your body is in an inefficient position to make a successful swing.

We use a variety of biomechanical tests to determine the cause of the swing fault, followed by prescribed exercises, soft tissue, and chiropractic treatments to correct the physical causes of a reverse spine angle.  Please feel free to email Dr. Jess at drjess@innersport.com to learn more about swing faults, physical causes, and treatments or about any other golf injury related matter.  Golf_Swing_Animation by Persian Poet Gal

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