Why Your Thoracic Spine is Killing Your Golf Game

January 14, 2019

 

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: