Low Back Pain When You Golf? It Could Be Your Tight Lats!
The golf swing puts a tremendous amount of force through the lumbar spine and low back pain tends to be the most common complaint we see in our golfers here at Movement Driven.
There are several characteristics of golfers that tend to contribute to a greater likelihood of developing golf-related low back pain. Limited hip mobility, a stiff thoracic spine, inability to activate the glutes effectively, and poor core stability could all leads to low back pain.
But the main impairment we’re going to discuss in this blog is how your tight lat muscles may be contributing to increased stress in the lower back when you swing. We’ll begin with teaching you how to can assess if your lats are tight then we’ll talk about a few exercises you can start doing immediately to being to lengthen that tissue leading to a more fluid golf swing.
The role tight lats play in lower back pain in golfers
The lat, short for latissimus dorsi, is a HUGE muscle. One of the biggest in our body. We need the lats to be strong to generate power through that golf swing to increase distance on our drives and iron play.
The lat starts at the shoulder, specifically in the front of the humerus (upper arm bone). It has connections throughout the rib cage, the thoracic spine (upper back) and then attaches to the lumbar spine (lower back) onto the pelvis through a connective tissue known as thoracolumbar fascia.
When we get into our bent forward golf swing, we ideally want our butt tucked under us a little bit to avoid what we call ‘S posture’.
The S posture is when your lower back is arched excessively. When it's in this arched position, it limits your ability to rotate through the lower back during our swing. This then puts an increased amount of force and stress through the joints and discs in our lower back leading to a greater potential of injury.
The S posture can be caused simply by an inability to have the coordination of the pelvis and adjacent muscles to stay out of that position, however, I often see golfers with S posture have tight lats…
Remember, we just discussed how the lat goes from the shoulder all the way down to the pelvis (see picture above).
As we go into our back swing and lift our arms up, we begin to elongate the lat. This leads to the lat moving with the shoulder and pulling on the lower attachment to the pelvis. This pulls us out of the posterior pelvic tilt (butt tucked under) position and into S posture.
The Lat Test
The Lat Test is a simple test we like to use to assess if you have tight lats.
Follow these simple instructions to perform the test at home. The video below also goes over the test in detail.
1. Stand in a mini squat with your back, butt, and head against the wall
2. Place a golf club at the level of your belly button between your back and the wall
3. Tilt your pelvis so your lower back is holding the golf club by pressing it into the wall. For this position, imagine bringing your belt buckle toward your chest and tucking your butt under you.
4. Face your palms toward each other and lift your arms (with straight elbow) up straight up in front of you and see if you can touch the wall.
5. A failed test indicated tight lats
a. A failed test is:
i. If your hands can’t reach the wall with straight elbows and avoiding shrugging the shoulders
ii. If your hands can reach the wall, but you lost the pelvic tilt evidenced by the golf club beginning to slide down since you’re no longer able to hold it against the wall
Try the Lat Test now to see if you even need to keep reading!
O.K. I have tight lats, now what?
I will say, even though it’s called the “Lat Test”, failure in this test could be caused by a stiff shoulder joint to inability to adequately extend the thoracic spine. You may have weakness in the lower trapezius and serratus anterior muscles that make this movement more difficult as well. That is why it’s always best to have a licensed medical professional do a full assessment to parse through the true limitations you're presenting with. Nevertheless, the exercises we’re about to discuss will help tightness not only in the lats but address stiffness in the shoulder and thoracic spine and even the rib cage as well!
In this first video we go my absolute favorite way to stretch the lat muscle. This is also a great way to get general shoulder mobility. Try it out then retest the lat muscle length using the Lat Test.
This next video is another great way to increase lat flexibility as well as thoracic extension limitations that may be causing your failure in the lat test. Try it out and retest!
The next video goes over a great way to increase thoracic spine and rib cage mobility specifically working on increasing your rotational mobility. Another reason why you may be having low back pain in the golf swing.
This last video goes over a simple way to activate the lower trap and serratus anterior muscles in an overhead posture. If your lats are tight, they’ve likely been tight for a long time. Which means you haven’t adequately moved overhead without compensation and likely developed weakness in the aforementioned muscles. Try this exercise after you’ve done the above mobility work consistently for a few weeks.
We hope this blog gave you some insight into why you may be having some low back pain after a round of 18 holes.
As we said before, it’s always a could idea to have a medical professional perform a full movement assessment to determines the type of low back pain you have and identify exactly what is causing it.
At Movement Driven, we are certified Titleist Performance Institute providers and are trained to assess you with thorough knowledge of the Body-Swing Connection. If you’re have any kind of pain reach out to us. Or maybe you know you have some of these characteristics affecting your inability to play well on the course. We pride ourselves not only in rehabilitating golfers when they’re injured but preventing injuries and boosting swing performance and efficiency as well.
Schedule a Discovery Call with us today to see how we can help you enjoy your time out on the course more than you already do!