I recently attended a Titleist golf swing seminar and they emphasized the ability to rotate correctly for a proper golf swing. As a Physical Therapist, I see the inability of people to rotate as a major factor for causing pain . Our bodies were meant to rotate without pain, but rotating with the wrong areas can lead to wear and tear and eventually “pain”.
Lets take a look at Rory MciIroy rotating.
We can safely assume that if he did not have the ability to rotate correctly while hitting a gazillion golf balls he would have pain.
Taking a look at this picture, lets take out the knees as a source of rotation since they don’t rotate anyway. Also, for the sake of argument, we will take out the ankles as a primary source of rotation. Although the ankles play a key role they do not rotate as much as some other areas need to. Also, the arms look pretty straight and for the sake of argument lets say they play a more passive role than actively generating rotational power.
The chart below at the far right shows the amount of rotation for each spinal segment.
As we can see, the lumbar spine (L1-L5) does not have much rotation compared to other segments of the spine and shows less than 15 degrees of rotation. If you were to spread your middle finger and your ringer finger apart, the axis it would create is how much rotation you have from your low back. Take a look at the thoracic spine (T1-T12). A person should have around 50 degrees of rotation from your mid back/upper back. Looking back at the swing picture above, can you see how much rotation Rory is performing with his upper back? If he were to let his neck follow his upper back, he would be looking almost 90 degrees to the right.
Furthermore, let’s look at your hips. See how Rory is pivoting around his hips. Your hips should rotate as well about 30-45 degrees depending on internal or external rotation of the hip. If we combine the thoracic spine and hips there should be almost 90 degrees of rotation and that is what is happening if Rory’s head followed his upper body. If you put your feet together and I ask you to rotate, can you get your shoulders square to the wall next to you? This is how much rotation you should be able to achieve.
Now imagine that as we sit all day at work and/or get older our hips tighten up and our rounded thoracic spine no longer rotates. What ends up happening? Our spine will end up rotating from the wrong areas and the next available area that will allow rotation is the lower back. The lumbar spine tends to be too mobile and will rotate if you allow it, but over time will wear down because it was not meant to rotate. This in turns causes degeneration and pain.