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Why Your Mid-back is Killing Your Golf Game

September 4, 2019
Dr. Donald Mull, DC

What is the “Thoracic” spine?

The thoracic spine is simply the mid-back located in-between your shoulder blades. It is the portion of your back that connects to your ribs. There are the same amount of mid-back bones as there are pairs of ribs (which is 12). Having enough relative mobility in the mid-back is crucial in order to take stress off other parts of your body during the golf swing (especially the shoulders and low back).

Is this you?

Have you noticed after hitting a couple buckets on the range a little twinge in the shoulder or the low back? Maybe you have tried over and over to stretch out or strengthen those areas but nothing has changed. This is something that we see quite often in our office so you are NOT alone. The golf swing by nature creates an insane amount rotational forces on the body.

According to the PGA Tour, the average PGA player's club head speed (with driver) in the 2017 season was about 115 mph. That is moving! Yes, know not everyone is hitting like the pros and that an increase in handicap most likely means a drop in club speed. However you're still moving the stick at around 90-95 mph even with a 15 handicap. Take a look: (Left represents elite golfers and as you move right the handicap increases. As you can see the club speed drops, but never below 90 mph)

Since there is such a large amount of forces applied by and on the body during your golf swing, the questions then becomes; how can we make sure the body is in the "safest" biomechanical position throughout the swing?

This comes down to the ability to stay in your posture throughout the entirety of the golf swing. However, if your mid-back does not have the ability to rotate as much as you need it to you will find that range of motion somewhere else (typically the surrounding joints, like the low back and the shoulders). This then causes a few undesired results from decreased performance to increased risk for injury. First off, it is difficult to have a consistent swing when you have more moving parts. And maybe even more importantly, your risk of low back injury or shoulder injury goes through the roof (especially in the low back) when you add repetitive movement with repetitive forceful rotary movements.

Why do you care?

To emphasize the importance of mid-back mobility lets take a look at this nifty chart that shows the "norms" in different regions of the body:

If you noticed, most of the rotation occurs in the hip and the "thoracic spine". So the low back should be relatively stable. However if we loose this stability we can start to increase the risk for low back or shoulder sensitivity (pretty important right?).

Like we stated before, if this amount of rotation cannot be obtained with the hips and mid-back, your body will find a way to complete the task at hand (we are pretty clever). All your brain knows is you are asking it to rotate and hit a little white object, so it will find a way to make it happen, even if that means asking too much of your poor low back.

So how do you tap into that thoracic spine and get what you need out of every swing? First and foremost, a coach that can create a learning environment and articulate what you need will always be number one when it comes to skills (we work directly with Porzak Golf. and they are the best in the biz, just saying. You can check them out here).

Second, you need to find ways to challenge your body to get into new positions. Try these mobility drills that will make sure your body will have the flexibility to get into the position of the swing as well as the following coordination drills that will allow you to control your body in those positions of the swing.

How can we help?

Mobility Drills

Hip Loaded Reach Through:

** Start and your hands and knees now slide hands over so the right hand is in line with the left knee. Reach your right arm through (this should load the left hip if you are referencing the picture).

Side-lying Tx Reach:

**Start on your side, shoulder on top of shoulder. Reach top arm as far as you can then open up to the other side and reach as far as you can (keep the knees on the ground and squeeze something between your legs).

Coordination Drills

Hip differentiation:

**Stand in your stance as if you were over the ball. Keeping your torso still, rotate your hips (should look a heck of a lot better than this as this is my weakest point).

Torso Differentiation:

**Stand in your stance as if you were over the ball. Keeping your hips still rotate your torso.

Rotational "Squat" (Iso Hold OR Load n Go)

Iso Hold: **Shoulders and hips stay in line (the mobility comes from the hip, just like the swing!). Hold the position for 10-30 seconds.

Load n Go: ** Shoulders and hips stay in line (the mobility comes from the hip, just like the swing!). Slow on the load (picture 2) then fast rotation go (picture 3). This should feel like you are loading the right leg (if referencing this picture) and feel like you are throwing a hook.

What’s Next?

Consistency will be your best friend when it comes to these movements. If you have noticed in your assessment that you do not have the mobility you need for the golf swing, work your tail off to be more mobile (you can find more thoracic mobility exercises here).

If you have problems with coordination then start by mastering those movements above and move to the slow motion stance rotation making sure you can correctly sequence and disassociate your hips and torso.

If you have any pain, please go to your local chiropractor or physical therapist that will take the time to listen to your unique story, watch you move and give you solutions to meet YOUR goals. If you are in the SD area we would love to help and if you are not we can perform an online consultation to help guide you back to playing pain free. To check out more blogs click here. If you would like to contact us to schedule now and learn how we can help, click here.


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