Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world today. Almost 6 million people play golf every year in Canada alone! It is one of few sports that people can enjoy together, no matter what the age or skill gap is. With any physical activity or sport, aches or pains are common, and golf is certainly not exempt. In this article, we’ll dive into common injuries that result from golfing and how they can be treated conservatively with manual therapy or exercise.
The majority of aches or pains associated with common golf injuries are from what we call repetitive strain injuries. When you perform a movement often enough, this can lead to overuse or overload of a part of the body. Swinging a golf club repeatedly at a driving range or on the course can sometimes lead to the development of pain in the back, shoulders, elbows, or wrists. Wrist injuries are some of the most common injuries in golf. Repetitive strain injuries will often resolve with rest, but there are many steps you can take to help these injuries recover quickly or be proactive in preventing them from reoccurring! Let us help you recover from your golf injury.
If you ever watch the slow-motion breakdown of a skilled golfer’s swing, you will notice that there are a lot of moving parts. The beginning of the movement is all about building up energy through the back-swing. This allows us to generate power through our down-swing, contacting the ball to drive it forward. In the follow-through portion of the swing, we are slowing the body down and eventually coming to a stop. If we have poor swing mechanics and are not moving well or lack flexibility through the hips, back, shoulder or arms, we can become vulnerable to overuse injuries in these areas.
The power we generate during a golf swing starts from the ground up! It is not surprising that lower back pain is common amongst golfers. Experienced golfers will rotate through their hips when they contact the ball. This hip movement spares the lower back from excessively high forces. If your hips are tight or your swing does not allow for proper rotation through the hips, you can become vulnerable to developing lower back pain. This will often develop over the course of the round, with each swing taking more of a toll on the lower back. Many individuals suffering from lower back pain will lack endurance as well, and the physical challenge of hitting the ball up and down the course can cause muscle fatigue. When we become muscle-fatigued, our back will start to stiffen and ache.
Our shoulders are the most moveable joints in our body, and a golf swing will require that you are able to demonstrate a certain degree of shoulder flexibility. If your shoulders are not moving well because of previous injury, arthritis, or tightness in some of the surrounding muscles, this can lead to increased effort and strain on some of the muscles and tendons of the shoulder girdle. The rotator cuff muscles and the biceps are the most commonly injured muscles. These small muscles and tendons can be vulnerable to being overworked if they are repetitively strained from repeated golf swings.
Much like the shoulder, there are many small muscles and tendons around the elbow that can also become overworked or injured. Golfer’s elbow is one of the most common golf related injuries and involves a strain to the tendons for the muscles of the forearm, or a sprain to the ligaments on the inner elbow. Injuries to the elbow or wrist can occur from missing contact with the ball and striking the hard ground, resulting in forces transmitted from the golf club into the wrist and elbow. Or, more commonly, they occur through repeated micro-damage to the tendons without adequate time to rest, resulting in inflammation or injury to the tendons or ligaments. When this occurs, gripping your golf club or picking up heavy objects becomes painful for the elbow.
Manual Therapy for Golf Injuries
When it comes to caring for golf related injuries, there are many steps you can take, both to help recover from these injuries quickly and to better protect yourself from developing them in the first place. Should you suffer a golf related injury, the team at The Pain & Wellness Centre has you covered with our experience in sports injuries. !
All members of our manual therapy pain are trained strength and conditioning specialists, and they will be able to assess the way you move to determine where treatment should be focused. This often will mean looking into improving performance in areas other than where your pain or injury is.
Many golf injuries, including those to the back, shoulders, elbows, and forearms, are musculoskeletal in nature and respond extremely well to acupuncture and various soft tissue therapies. Tendon related injuries can also be treated effectively using modalities such as Shockwave therapy. Your therapist will work to help restore full pain-free movement of your body and give you additional exercises that will help build capacity in the musculoskeletal tissues to better withstand the physical demands of golf.
Education is an important component to patient management and your therapist will constantly reassess your readiness to return to golf and provide you with strategies to manage your injury beyond the golf course so that you can get back to action! Even after you return to the course successfully and are feeling like new, they can work with you to build you a golf-specific exercise program to keep you feeling and playing at your best.
For more information on how The Pain & Wellness Centre can help improve your golf game, call our office or check out our website today!