It's not just tales of the perfect shot that are repeated time after time when you're down at the golf club. Each time you play or practice, your swing is repeated over and over, and that can lead to repetitive strain injuries taking their toll.
One thing that most golfers, both professional and amateur, will admit to is being driven to be the best they can. You might spend hours on the course or at the range practising that shot over and over to get it right. You probably put everything you can into every swing just to try and drive the ball further. A dedication to succeed it may be, but it can also put excessive forces repeatedly through your spine, shoulders, knees, elbows and wrists, leading to overuse injuries in these joints commonly stopping play.
What is repetitive strain injury?
Pain felt in your muscles, nerves and tendons that have been caused by repetitive movement and overuse is often referred to as repetitive strain injury, or RSI. When you play golf you repeatedly put strain on your back, wrists, knees, elbows and shoulders, which can cause small tears in the muscles and lead to inflammation. This damage can be exacerbated by incorrect technique, over enthusiastic play or poor posture, and if left unchecked can lead to more serious injury and pain.
What can repetitive strain lead to?
Four of the five most common injuries suffered by golfers are all caused by the repetitive stresses placed on the body as you swing your club. Plantar Fasciitis, (heel or arch pain), is also a repetitive strain injury, but is caused by being on your feet for long periods of time.
- Lower back pain
- Golfers Elbow
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Knee pain
- Shoulder pain
Repetitive strain injury treatment
The first thing to do is to find out what is causing the pain and stop. That doesn't mean quitting golf completely, but identifying what could be contributing to your pain. Perhaps your clubs are not suitable for your level or perhaps your technique needs to be modified. Consult a professional for help addressing these issues.
The next step is to do what you can to treat the pain. Your GP may advise taking anti- inflammatory painkillers, using a heat pad or cold ice pack. Staying mobile is important and you may be referred to a physiotherapist who can create a programme of safe exercises and therapies, such as ultrasound and manual therapy, to improve flexibility and movement, and promote healing.
Finally, consider what can be done to prevent pain in the future. Again, a physiotherapist can help you by identifying contributing factors, such as poor posture and can give you a series of exercises to help strengthen specific muscles so they are better able to withstand the stresses and strains of a round of golf.
Always take the time to warm up properly before every game or practise session. You might think of golf as gentle exercise that doesn't require the same attention to warming up as other sports like tennis or football, but that's not the case. Each swing puts some pretty serious demands on your body, and preparing your muscles and tendons for these stresses by warming them up effectively can make them far less susceptible to injury.
How can physiotherapy help prevent a repetitive strain injury?
Your joints and tendons are surrounded by muscles, which help to keep them in place and support their movement. The stronger these muscles, the better they can resist damage and support the joints and tendons, even if they are being placed under stress. Physiotherapists use Pilates exercises to target these supportive muscles and develop their strength.
Pilates doesn't just help you to avoid injury when you play, it can also help you to significantly improve your game by increasing your flexibility, enhancing endurance and stamina as well as build the strength to make your swing more stable, and therefore more powerful.
How to avoid repetitive strain injury
Golf is a relatively safe sport, but if you enjoy a round or two it can place you at risk of repetitive strain injuries. Take steps to build strength in your muscles and it will help your game to improve as well as limit your risk of succumbing to injury.
If you're already experiencing pain always seek medical advice before starting any new exercise. Our physiotherapists can help you to stay at optimum fitness so you can continue to enjoy the pleasures of golf.