Now that many of us are back on the course, there are aches and pains that come with the lack of playing for awhile. We’ve got to pay attention to our body in order to play like we did before the break. Most golfers know that stretching their back before hitting balls or playing a round of golf is important to protecting their back from injury. Yes, this is important, but there are so many components to the swing, that more body parts need to be addressed prior to hitting the ball. Although I’m not a golf instructor, I am a physician who’s worked with golfers for 26 years. Let’s break this down and make it simple to understand.
When addressing the ball, it’s important to have your feet in the proper position, about shoulder width apart, and the very “bottom” of your spine in extension a bit, while keeping the rest of your back straight as you’re leaning forward with the club. Many people forget to bend their knees a little, and this causes more pressure on the knees. Too wide of a stance may cause more pressure and torque on your lower back, and sacroiliac joints. When your lower spine goes into that slight extension, this can cause soreness later. A stretch for flexion of the lower part of your spine can be done at home before you leave, to make it easier. Lying on the floor, bring one knee to your chest and hold, while taking deep breaths. Then bring the other by itself, then both at the same time. Do this about 10 times to warm up the lower part of your spine in flexion. Some players should not rotate the lower back while stretching, due to spinal conditions. Every golfer knows that once you start to rotate to the right for your back swing, there is a shift of weight with your stance.
I’ll talk about right-handed players for now, and the left-handed players can visualize the opposite.
This shift of weight must be distributed evenly on the right, or joint pain can arise quickly. The right knee and hip are involved in giving you the power for your swing. A common mistake is to shift the right hip out too far to the right at this point. ( I’ve done this, and felt right hip and knee pain afterwards) Stretching of the thigh, leg and hip muscles is important to allow the fluid motion at this point. Standing and touching the toes is not the best way to stretch hamstrings and lower back muscles anymore. Today, we recommend lying on your back, and bringing each leg up by gently holding the back of the thigh, without flexing the knee if possible. If you’re not that flexible yet, you can use a rolled-up towel or a belt to pull the thigh until you gain more flexibility. These may also be done about 10 times for a good stretch at home. There are hip stretches and exercises I recommend, but each person must be evaluated for those, as some conditions may have to be addressed before doing some hip stretches.
The back swing also involves not only flexibility of the spinal muscles, but strength as well. Strength exercises have to be done, including core exercises to control the motion of your swing. Many players stretch with the twisting of the spine before hitting balls, but not as many players work on their strength. These exercises cn be done at home. Bands and tubing can be used to duplicate the swing and strengthen the necessary muscles. These strengthening exercises must be done SLOWLY! First, so no injury occurs, and secondly, to build muscle properly. After a few weeks, you’ll feel stronger, and have more control with the club. Again, because so many people have different back conditions, not all stretches are for everyone. There’s no “cookie cutter” method here. Each player should be evaluated for their specific exercises for the spine. The same goes for shoulder stretches and exercises to increase the range of motion necessary to have the best swing possible. If your shoulder muscles are too tight, your swing will suffer. Previous shoulder injuries and/or surgeries will determine the correct exercises and stretches you will be prescribed.
To have an evaluation of your swing for the correct exercises and stretches, please call my office. I can also work with your instructor on any joint conditions you might have, that will help them to recommend any corrections you have to make. Golf is fun and shouldn’t cause pain. It’s a game that you can play your whole life, if you just take the time to prepare your body for the sport. Go to the home page on my website, and see the video of a PGA Golf Legend, and see what he has to say.
For any questions regarding my articles, please email me at:
Leisa-Marie Grgula, D.C.Chiropractic Physician
Accurate Care Medical Wellness Center
18261 N Pima Rd. Suite 115
Scottsdale, AZ 85255