By Dr. Christopher Kessler DC
Would you like to play better golf? Would you like to play without back pain?
I am a chiropractic physician at Legacy Clinic of Chiropractic (The Villages, Florida) and an avid golfer. One of the greatest joys of my job is being able to treat and work with golfers of all skill levels, golfers who play with or without discomfort.
Introducing the Sacroiliac Joint
A poorly executed golf swing may not be your fault or the fault of your teaching pro. It is perhaps, very possible, that you cannot physically make a proper golf swing due to a biomechanical issue stemming from your sacroiliac (SI) joint. There are two SI joints in your body and they sit on each side of your spine and link the sacrum (lowest part of the spine above the tailbone) to the iliac bone (pelvis). The most common golf-related issue I see is a right-handed golfer suffering from right-sided SI joint problems.
The SI joint is extremely important in the golf swing as it is designed to transfer weight and force from the upper part of your body down through your hips to the lower part of your body. The joint itself is designed to move 4-6 mm in every direction. If this joint is not moving and working properly on the right side, then a right-handed golfer will not be able to properly transition from his right side over to his left side, in order to make a full and complete swing.
I can usually sit on the driving range and diagnose what is wrong with someone’s lower back and SI joints just from watching their mis-hits, and their pivot, or lack thereof through the golf ball.
Golfers who have some sort of lower back pain should identify and investigate further their lower back issues and its relation to their golf swing and performance. However, most players that we see on the driving range are in fact not in any pain, yet their pelvis is completely out of misalignment, therefore anatomically, they cannot make an efficient golf swing.
Hip Surgery, Knee Surgery & Your Golf Game
From an article published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine*: returning to play after hip or knee replacement surgery. Some interesting results:
A study of 66 golfers who had a hip replacement found that 57 returned to play golf by an average of 5.4 months after surgery. 54% said that their golf game improved. Handicaps did increase by roughly 10 strokes in the month after the patients returned to play.
A separate study looked at 83 active golfers who underwent a total knee arthroplasty (knee replacement). They returned to play golf at an average of 20.3 weeks. They had a slight increase in handicap and decrease in drive length. Almost half thought that hitting their drives was easier after surgery. Interestingly, a higher percentage of patients who had a knee replacement in their lead legs (left leg) had pain than did patients who had surgery in the right leg (lag leg).
One Adjustment For Better Golf
The most common dysfunction that I see is for a golfer to have the right side of his or her SI joint rock back and down from its ideal position and remain stuck there. When this occurs in the body, all of the muscles that attach into this area will become spastic, as they are also being pulled out of their proper position and alignment. In most cases this will cause tightness and pain in the area around the joint itself, along the paraspinal muscles in the lower back or even into the anterior groin muscles. Sometimes the pain will become severe and extend down into the gluteal muscles, and possibly even affect the sciatic nerve and shoot pain down the leg and possibly into the calf or foot. The person will most likely have a very hard time finding a comfortable position to stand, sit or lie down.
Pelvic Imbalance: The Hook and the Slice
The most common mis-hits that will result from this type of pelvic imbalance will be a slice or a hook. If a player hangs back on his or her right side because they can’t move back to their left side, they will either throw their arms at the ball from the top of the swing and slice it, which is called coming over the top, or they will try to “save” the shot and hit it with their hands and hook it because the lower body isn’t moving, and that causes the hands to flip the club. If you can’t properly utilize your lower body to move weight to your left side to start the downswing, then you can’t take advantage of your power chain in the correct sequence through to the completion of the golf swing. Fixing this type of biomechanic dysfunction is what we do at Legacy Clinic of Chiropractic.
With proper analysis, we can determine where your issue is arising from, and usually fix it with a combination of manual muscle therapies and chiropractic adjustments to restore normal motion back into the joint itself. If you are not able to get over to your left side during your swing, if you are continually struggling with your game, or if you are experiencing lower back pain, then it is time to get checked by a well-trained chiropractor in order to get your body functioning at its optimal level, so that you can make a proper pivot and golf swing – PAIN-FREE. If you live in or near The Villages, Florida, or may be visiting the area you can reach Dr. Kessler at (352) 561-8852 or at DrChris@LegacyClinic.org.