It’s not unusual for golfers to experience arm, shoulder and back pain stemming from poor mechanics or overuse at some point in their sporting career. Thankfully, most problems can be treated effectively away from the green.
Dedicated stretching exercises and strengthening of the core muscles used for driving the ball over long distances could help deal with any golf-related aches and pains, particularly in the shoulder, but it’s also important to know the signs of impending injury.
“If injured and in pain, it’s quite simple… don’t hit balls!” says sports specialist physiotherapist Stephanie Smith, founder of Pea Green Physio. “You will aggravate and potentially worsen the injury. Get it sorted with a medical screening/assessment by a golf specialist physiotherapist and get your swing assessed by your golf coach,” she advises. “You need to identify if it’s a shoulder injury caused by either your swing or striking the golf ball, or a problem aggravated by golf.”
Signs of a shoulder injury
According to Stephanie, pain is the first indication of a shoulder injury, either during or after playing. “This can be localised to the shoulder or may track down the arm and into the hand or up into the neck.”
Limitation in range of movement or a shortened swing or follow-through is another sign all is not well in the shoulder joint, she adds. “You may experience pain at the end range of motions or when drawing the arm across the chest (the scarf test),” Stephanie says. Any ‘crepitus’ – clicking or cracking coming from the shoulder – could also indicate wear and tear.
Prepare your shoulder for the swing
“Golfers are renowned for getting very tight in their pectoral muscles (chest), latissimus dorsi (side of thorax and arm) and upper trapezius (between neck and shoulder),” explains Stephanie. “When tight, these muscles can significantly restrict your swing. They will pull forwards and restrict the shoulder movement and, if left unstretched, will form a muscle imbalance across the shoulder girdle. This could lead to shoulder and neck problems in the future,” she adds.
Stretching these muscles out daily, especially before and after playing golf, is strongly recommended to help free up your swing. “Working on core strength and neutral spinal posture is also key,” Stephanie says.
If your shoulder is already aggravated and inflamed, Stephanie says the best course of action is to rest and ice the area for 10 minutes a few times a day, then seek help from a professional.
If the injury is joint related, you may also wish to consider adding cod liver oil to your diet. The omega 3 in cod liver oil has been known to help reduce inflammation and ease pain and stiffness in aggravated joints.