Professional Sports Care’s database of injuries on PGA golfers has shown that right sided golfers predominantly experience right lower back pain relative to left lower back pain. Statistics show that on average right handed golfers will have right lower back pain 70-75% of the time. Left lower back pain in a right handed golfer will occur on average 25-30% of the time. This finding reminds me of the discussions I would have with the late Dr. Frank Jobe. He initiated the concept of fitness trailers on the PGA Tour years ago and was the head Orthopedic Surgeon for the Los Angeles Dodgers. When we would discuss shoulder injuries in his pitchers on the Dodgers, he found that most were the result of deceleration stresses on the shoulder as opposed to loading positions.
A similar analogy can be made in golf. In the acceleration phase of the golf swing amateur club head speed ranges from 90-110 mph while professionals can reach speeds of 110-130 mph. After impact this club head speed decelerates for a smooth controlled finish.
From impact to follow through and finish the right thoracic and lumbar musculature has to decelerate left rotational momentum and control compressive forces on the right lumbar facet joints. Regarding posture these phases of the golf swing create tremendous forces on the right lumbar facet joints. In fact X-rays of our Champions Tour golfers frequently shows evidence of facet arthropathy in the right lumbar facet joints of right handed golfers. For the body to protect these joints as best as possible and to decelerate the body’s rotational forces, the right thoracolumbar musculature becomes hypertonic over time as it adapts to this demand. Palpable and sometimes visual hypertonicity is evident in the standing examination and in the prone, relaxed position.
In the right handed golfer the right thoracolumbar musculature has to be kept pliable and eccentrically strong. Addressing the mechanical demands with soft tissue therapy, manipulation, spinal traction and therapeutic exercise is a very effective treatment protocol for this type of lower back pain. It will help minimize compensating postural faults that occur with the golf swing and decrease compressive forces on the right lumbar spine. Yes, the same scenario occurs when a left handed golfer experiences left lower back pain.