Schedule an Appointment

Swing Strong: Shoulder Health Strategies for Pain-Free Golf and Peak Performance

As summertime is near and many golf tournaments and courses are getting more popular, including the local tournament, it's a great opportunity to enjoy the sport and improve your skills on the green.

Whether you’re just getting started, or have been playing your whole life, focusing on the mechanics of your swing can not only improve your golf score but also reduce your risk of injury. But what if you do get pain with golfing? Is it okay to play through? What can you do to reduce pain and prevent future injuries? 

Navigating Pain is Rough

Pain can be interpreted as a traffic light system. As pain gets better with activity would be considered a green light, indicating that it’s okay to proceed. Pain that stays the same with activity would be considered a yellow light- you need to proceed with caution. And pain that worsens with activity would be considered a red light – stop! However, with that being said, any pain with movement typically indicates an underlying mechanical fault which should be assessed further.  

The Real Cause of Your Bogeys

When it comes to shoulder pain with golfing, it may be necessary to dig a little bit deeper. Although the shoulder may seem like the cause, more times than not, the midback or hips are the culprits.

The midback must rotate and extend during your swing; however, if your midback is stiff, and can only rotate and extend so much, the shoulder (and not to mention the lower back), will make up for the lack of mobility. This can result in shoulder pain that not only affect your golf game but your life as well. 

Take The Fairway to Flexibility

There are plenty of midback mobility exercises out there – some of my favorites include thread the needle, open books, cat/cow, and sphinx pose.

If it is difficult to get on the floor, all of these exercises can be modified to be performed standing! It would be helpful to do some of these prior to golfing, but getting in the habit of doing them on a weekly basis can really improve your midback flexibility.  Posture is another important aspect that often gets overlooked. If you find yourself behind a computer most of the day, focus on your posture when sitting. Get up every hour or so as varying your positions can make a big difference. Some simple postural exercises include stretching your chest muscles in the doorway and squeezing your shoulder blades together while sitting. 

Still Need Getting Out of The Pain Bunker?

It’s time to look closer at the shoulder. Both flexibility and stability play important roles when performing any task. From a flexibility perspective, rotation and elevation are very important. Often, addressing the flexibility of the lats and shoulder external rotators is pertinent for proper swing mechanics. Lat stretching can be done on a countertop or using a foam roller and external rotation stretching can be performed using your golf club!

From a muscular standpoint, the rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles play a big role. The rotator cuff provides dynamic stability for the shoulder. A weakened rotator cuff could result in altered mechanics and eventual pain with repetitive motion.

Don't "Putt" Off Seeing Someone

If you are experiencing shoulder pain while golfing, it's crucial to listen to your body. Continuing to play through the pain can worsen the condition and lead to more severe injuries. Taking a break from golfing to allow your shoulder to rest and heal is recommended. Make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist at OrthoCarolina if the pain persists.

Warning signs indicating you should stop playing golf and seek medical attention for shoulder pain include persistent or worsening pain, weakness in the shoulder or arm, numbness or tingling, and difficulty performing daily activities. Ignoring these signs can lead to further damage and prolonged recovery time. Download the Hurt! App in the case of an unexpected injury on the course.

Swinging into Success

Maintaining optimal shoulder health is crucial for enjoying golf and preventing injuries. By incorporating proper warm-up routines, shoulder exercises, and listening to your body, you can enhance shoulder strength and flexibility, improving golf performance and longevity in the sport. Prioritize shoulder health to continue playing golf pain-free for years to come.

Thank you to Julia Tranquillo, PT, DPT, OCS for providing this blog information!

Leave a Comment