The lumbar spine and low back pain in golf: a literature review of swing biomechanics and injury prevention

Spine J. 2008 Sep-Oct;8(5):778-88. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2007.07.388. Epub 2007 Oct 15.


Background context: The golf swing imparts significant stress on the lumbar spine. Not surprisingly, low back pain (LBP) is one of the most common musculoskeletal complaints among golfers.

Purpose: This article provides a review of lumbar spine forces during the golf swing and other research available on swing biomechanics and muscle activity during trunk rotation.

Study design: The role of "modern" and "classic" swing styles in golf-associated LBP, as well as LBP causation theories, treatment, and prevention strategies, are reviewed.

Methods: A PubMed literature search was performed using various permutations of the following keywords: lumbar, spine, low, back, therapy, pain, prevention, injuries, golf, swing, trunk, rotation, and biomechanics. Articles were screened and selected for relevance to injuries in golf, swing mechanics, and biomechanics of the trunk and lumbar spine. Articles addressing treatment of LBP with discussions on trunk rotation or golf were also selected. Primary references were included from the initial selection of articles where appropriate. General web searches were performed to identify articles for background information on the sport of golf and postsurgical return to play.

Results: Prospective, randomized studies have shown that focus on the transversus abdominus (TA) and multifidi (MF) muscles is a necessary part of physical therapy for LBP. Some studies also suggest that the coaching of a "classic" golf swing and increasing trunk flexibility may provide additional benefit.

Conclusions: There is a notable lack of studies separating the effects of swing modification from physical rehabilitation, and controlled trials are necessary to identify the true effectiveness of specific swing modifications for reducing LBP in golf. Although the establishment of a commonly used regimen to address all golf-associated LBP would be ideal, it may be more practical to apply basic principles mentioned in this article to the tailoring of a unique regimen for the patient. Guidelines for returning to golf after spine surgery are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Back Injuries / etiology*
  • Back Injuries / prevention & control
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Golf / injuries*
  • Golf / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / etiology*
  • Low Back Pain / prevention & control
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries*