Thoracic Spine Mobility in the Golf Swing

Do you have pain in your low back or hips during the golf swing? There is a lot of rotation involved in the golf swing, and the thoracic spine is one of the main parts of your body that can deliver this rotation. The thoracic spine is the part of your upper back just below your neck and down to the bottom of your ribs. If during the golf swing you lack mobility in the thoracic spine, your lumbar spine and/or your hips may try to make up for this lack of mobility and rotate to correct possibly leading to injury. Poor thoracic spine mobility may also be a cause of "C" posture which involves a very rounded spine during your setup and swing. A poor setup can lead to numerous problems during the golf swing such as decreased distance and inconsistent ball strike among other things.

During the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) screening process, we assess your thoracic mobility numerous ways. One simple way is in the seated position and we look for 45 degrees of rotation measured from the line across your shoulders. It is an important assessment during the TPI screen because rotation during the golf swing is one of the main generators of clubhead speed which correlates directly to distance. There are other assessments during the TPI screen that assess your mobility and posture directly related to the golf swing

open books

open books

open books

There are a few things that you can do to improve your thoracic spine mobility. One exercise we commonly use in physical therapy is called open books. In this exercise, lie on your right side with your knees bent. Place your right hand on your knees and straighten your left elbow towards the ceiling. From this position, reach backwards with your left hand keeping the arm straight. Ensure that you are rotating from your midback to try and touch your left shoulder blade to the floor while reaching backwards. Take a couple deep breaths to relax and expand your ribcage in this position and return to start. Repeat this 10 times and then perform on the opposite side.

reach backs

reach backs

Another exercise that can help to increase thoracic mobility is called reachbacks. For this exercise start out on all fours and sit back until your butt touches your heels (or as far as you can go without knee pain). Next, go down to your right elbow and then your left hand behind your head. From this position, keep your weight centered between your knees and your right hand and try to rotate your spine and point your left elbow and shoulder towards the ceiling. Finally return to starting position. Ensure that you take relaxed breaths throughout the exercise and that you perform on both sides.

With a focus on enhancing your upper back rotation, you can not only reduce painful after-effects of a golf round but also enhance your swing efficiency and distance.

John Maurer PT, DPT is a Titleist Performance Institute certified physical therapist based out of RWJ Somerset Sports Physical Therapy Hillsborough. Offering Rehab for sport, work, and life with sports injury, orthopedic and pre- and post-surgical rehabilitation for all ages, our services include post-concussion rehab, ACL return to activity, and therapy for back and neck pain, upper and lower extremity injuries, chronic sports injuries, and arthritis. For more information on our locations and services, visit www.rwjbh.org/SportsPT or call 855-777-8763. Find us on Facebook and Instagram @RWJUHPerformance