Relative to spine health and safety, the golf swing is unnatural, with twisting (the swing), weight-bearing (packing your bag on one shoulder), and bending (to retrieve your ball after draining that twisting 25-footer). Whether hitting a bucket of balls, packing your bag for eighteen holes or even using a cart, the majority of golfers still finish a round needing the comforts of the nineteenth hole to take their mind off their sore back.
The cause is primarily postural. During the swing, most golfers change their spine angle significantly during every swing. Deviating from a neutral spinal curve stretches spinal tissues and compresses disks unnaturally; hence the end-of-round pain or stiffness. Maintaining the optimum spine angle during the entire swing minimizes the risk. Think about it – if you have the same spine angle at setup as at ball-strike, you should hit it on the screws! No matter how perfect your arm-slot, the spine dictates how far away you are from the ball. Same distance, better results.
Low back pain is often associated with playing golf. When swinging a golf club, the back is subject to forces which can cause damage to muscles, ligaments, joints and discs, which can result in lower back pain. Although a golf swing involves many motions, it is the rotation, especially at the end of the swing back phase prior to hitting the ball and the following-through after striking the ball, where the lower back is twisted and overextended.
When swinging a golf club, the hips remain in place to face the ball as the shoulders turn all the way. This produces torque and rotational forces directly into the lower back, ending in the follow through, which adds extension pressures as well. This combination of forces can damage the spine causing golf back pain and can lead to conditions like degenerative disc disease, painful facet joint irritation and even cause fracture injuries causing a spinal bone to slip forward.
Proper golf swing technique is crucial to minimize these harmful forces, however, the restriction in hip motion along with an unbalanced swing can result in golf back pain.
Wearing a strong back support belt while playing golf can help reduce over-extension of the lower back, which is frequently associated with injuries causing or increasing pain from irritated facet joints and/or disruption or fracture of a spinal bone called spondylolysis. By restricting rotational forces and permitting more hip motion, a back belt can help those suffering from painful degenerative osteoarthritis of the lower back. This provides some scientific evidence that wearing a back support belt can help prevent back pain when golfing.
Back support belts have often been employed in the treatment of lower back pain for both athletes and non-athletes. A soft back belt has minimal effects and is used mainly as a reminder to use proper mechanics when lifting, provide warmth, peace of mind and a degree of stabilizing. A strong back belt, made of stiffer materials and with the ability to apply significant amounts of pressure, can help support the lower and upper body, prevent excessive motions, and can be beneficial when recovering from an injury by reducing inflammation and chances of re-injury.
According to an article published in a 2013 issue of the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, wearing a strong back brace can have benefits for minimizing harmful force to the low back when golfing. By providing firm support to the lower back, overextending, extremes of rotational forces as well as overextending can be reduced, thus avoiding harmful strain placed in the low back during the two phases of the golf swing that places golfers at risk for back pain.
The beneficial effects were noted with strong supports which were found to increase rotation motion at the hips, while reducing rotation motion of the lower back. The belt also reduced over extending at the follow through swing phase and minimized forces from the speed of the swing translating directly into the lower back. While the softer belt provided some protection, the stronger belt produced significant effects by increasing the stiffness of the trunk. Therefore, freeing up the hips and providing firm trunk support offered significant protection from potentially damaging forces to the low back in amateur golfers, who are more likely to have an unbalanced golf swing technique resulting in golf back pain.
By reducing the extreme motions involved with the golf swing, harmful forces are minimized, reducing pain and risk of injury. A strong back support belt reduces overextending, rotational force and tilting during both the initial phase of swing back as well as follow through, whereas a soft belt helped to minimize overextending during the initial swing back phase and tilting during follow through. Therefore, a firm structured back support belt is recommended over a weaker, softer belt. This may produce more discomfort during use, however the compromise will provide benefits from reducing more harmful forces that can offer relief from back pain when golfing, reducing risk of injury and extend the enjoyment of playing golf longer.
Fortunately, with the advent of new technology, strong back support belts are more comfortable to wear and much easier to use than the older types which tend to be very bulky.
PGA-Tour Player, PGA member and co-host of Hooked on Golf
The Back-A-Line back support belt – now with Niiomed® medical magnets for the golf world – has been a win-win-win for me and I feel many of you will get the same benefits.Read Full Review