8 Common Golf Injuries, and How You Can Fix it!
With golf season in full swing, here is a list of common golf injuries that can develop, typically in a repetitive strain type manner.
Low Back Pain: This is a no brainer, as low back pain is thought to affect ~80% of our population at some point in time. However, add in the rotational stresses of swinging a club repetitively (for most of us, think AT LEAST 80 swings/round (excluding putts), and another 50 swings on the driving range before the round. If you play 3x/week, that adds up to just under 400 swings per week! And while typically no one swing is responsible for a back injury, the additive effect (especially in a swing that has biomechanical flaws) can be stunning. If you have any question as to the effect the powerful swing has on back pain, look no further than PGA tour pros Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, or Rory McIlroy who have suffered from low back pain in the past. Also note that since their back pain has appeared, their golf game has gone down the drain. Strengthening the spine and stabilizing the spine are important to prevent these injuries, as are stretches to ensure your spine has the mobility it needs for the golf swing. If you are suffering from low back pain, spinal adjustments can help restore proper mobility in the spine, while Active Release Technique is able to help loosen tight muscles to help you return to the game faster!
Elbow Pain: Also called tendinitis, golfer’s elbow, or tennis elbow. What is interesting, is you can get golfer’s elbow (medial elbow pain) or tennis elbow (lateral elbow pain) from playing golf! Often this is the result of improper swing mechanics (talk to your PGA of Canada golf professional to address this), and/or grips that are the wrong size (ie too small) or grips that have worn down. Check out the grips, they shouldn’t look shiny- if in doubt, these should be replaced 1x/season, or every 40 rounds. In any event, if your elbow(s) is/are sore, your best bet is to see your chiropractor who uses Active Release Technique, as this is a way to stretch the muscles out and get rid of the pain causing scar tissue that has built up over time. Low Level Laser Therapy (also called ‘cold laser’) is also an excellent option to help facilitate healing. You will likely also be prescribed rehabilitation stretches and exercises, which are just as vital to not only speed up recovery, but keep it from coming back again!
Knee Pain: Most often, this is a recurrence in an individual with a previous history of knee pain resulting from arthritis or another injury because of the rotational forces on the knee during the swing. The cause of pain will dictate treatment, however ART or Laser Therapy are excellent options to get you back on the course!
Rotator Cuff Injury: We most often associate this sort of injury with an overhead sport (think baseball throw or volleyball swing), but in golf this can happen especially with an abrupt force during the swing as contact with the ground is made- most often from hitting a tree root during contact can cause significant jarring to hurt the shoulder or rotator cuff. ART is an excellent way to restore mobility and reduce pain in the rotator cuff, and rehabilitative exercises serve as a way to strengthen the shoulder to prevent future injury.
Wrist Injuries: Most often golfers will start to experience pain in the wrist at the time of impact. This can come from an improper wrist position at time of impact (ie deviated from side to side), or from hitting a tree root or firm ground. Tendonitis or sprain/strain injuries are most common, and once again if self stretching and home ice doesn’t do the trick, then ART should be your next go-to!
Neck Pain: This is especially common in newer golfers who aren’t as used to rotating the neck during the follow-through (which, we need to do so you can see where the ball is going- hopefully straight down the fairway!). This can also happen because during the golf swing (and putting stroke) our heads tend to be looking down (again, to see the ball), but holding this position for prolonged periods can aggravate the muscles supporting the neck. One way to avoid this is to have a proper warm up before your round that includes some gentle stretching, but also to avoid prolonged practice sessions where you are hunched forward creating excess strain on the neck. Your Chiropractor is able to assess and treat the neck in cases of neck pain either by adjusting/mobilizing the joints to restore their mobility, or using ART to stretch the muscles out (or use a combination of the two!)
Foot and Ankle Pain: Two of the most common foot injuries I see in golfers are plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis. This is likely because these golfers spend 4+ hours walking on uneven terrain of a golf course in footwear that doesn’t provide sufficient support. While many of the latest models of golf shoes might be stylish, they don’t provide the foot with enough support, causing the plantar fascia or achilles tendon to compensate and make up for the lack of support. Think about it: if you are a runner you would make sure your shoes were up for the 20 mile run, so why settle for a pair of golf shoes that aren’t up for walking the 8-10km golf course? If you intend on golfing, make sure you invest in a good pair of shoes that fit well, feel good, and offer the support you need! And, if you wear orthotics in your running shoes, make sure they are in your golf shoes! If for whatever reason you end up with plantar fasciitis or achilles tendonitis, ART and Laser Therapy is the combination that will get you walking the course again in no time, pain free! Stretches will also be provided, to help loosen up the tissues around the foot and ankle to help facilitate recovery.
Hip Injuries: This is not the most common injury for golfers, but can certainly be problematic. Most often this hip pain happens in the trail leg (ie the right leg of a right handed golfer) in the side of the buttock. This happens when there is too much ‘sway’ throughout a golf swing, instead of rotation through the hips. This can create trochanteric bursitis (aka a painful outside hip!). A good way to manage this is to 1) contact your TPI certified golf professional and have them look at your swing and see what you are doing to cause the hip pain, and how to correct it! and 2) get in touch with your Chiropractor to have some ART to loosen up the tight hip musculature and get some helpful hip stretches to target the tight muscles. Essentially, taking care of both is important here, otherwise the pain will more than likely return from faulty swing biomechanics.
Dr. Elaine Screaton (DC, BSc) is a NW Calgary Chiropractor (and avid golfer), currently practicing at Synergea Family Health Centre in Calgary, AB. Dr. Elaine is a certified full body provider of Active Release Technique.