What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of physical therapy? If you're like most people, images of injury and disability have conjured in your mind, which isn't too far from the reality of what it is today.
However, that is a one-dimensional view of the discipline. In recent times, physical therapy has evolved and become an essential tool for golfers to maximize performance and accelerate recovery.
Regardless of whether you are an amateur or a competitive golfer, physical therapy can help enhance your game in some way. Through correct movement analysis and muscle strength assessment, it becomes possible to identify areas that need improvement and develop a customized plan to optimize your physical performance.
Wondering how exactly physical therapy can help your game? We know you're eager to find out!
Instead, the question should be why not? Physiotherapy, contrary to what is commonly perpetuated, doesn't deal with only injuries. It is a holistic discipline that seeks to address any issue that could be limiting your performance, both preventatively and recuperatively.
It seeks to accomplish optimal physical performance without the need for medical or surgical intervention as much as possible and is highly effective for many types of conditions, whether they are acute or chronic.
Factors That Increase The Risk Of Injury and Need For Physical Therapy
Sadly, many people wait too long before understanding how P.T. can help their game, even in the absence of an injury. The longer you wait, the higher the risk of developing more risk factors, such as:
Yes, you can work on core strength on your own, but most middle-aged golfers wont. Golf is not reliant so much on the limbs, but rather the trunk,so core weakness can limit the power of your swing.
Poor Posture or Movement Patterns
If you have seen professional golfers on television, you may have noticed that they all have great posture when addressing the ball. Poor posture can lead to back pain and limit the range of motion of your swing, leading to loss of power.
Impaired Ankle Mobility
Stiff ankles mean that rotation doesn't come as naturally after the swing. This could result in an inconsistent shot and cause unnecessary strain on other parts of your body having to take up the slack. This is a major contributor to injury.
An Unstable Gait
Normally, posture isn't a trouble point for younger golfers. But with advancing age, the stabilizers and muscles that help maintain balance may atrophy and deteriorate, compromising your safety.
Falls can lead to serious injuries, including fractures. In the elderly, fractures can quickly become life-threatening.
Lack Of Flexibility
Inflexible hips, shoulders, and spine are all significant contributors to injuries, causing undue stress on other parts of the body, and even spinal issues in severe cases.
How Physiotherapy Can Help
First off, physiotherapy can be considered an ethical hack for improving your game, at a fraction of the cost, so don't think you don't need it. It can honestly improve so many aspects of your game that it is actually foolish to not utilize it.
Think of any physical limitation you currently experience. Physiotherapy can likely help with it. But here are the most common applications:
Poor Conditioning State
Anyone who tells you that you don't need to be in fair shape to play a round of golf is doing you an injustice. Sure, you don't need to be an elite athlete, but to say that a basic level of fitness won't serve you well is a lie.
Physio can help with your conditioning, or the lack thereof. Conditioning makes the body able to tolerate physical activity, and ties into your cardiopulmonary efficiency too. After all, the best way to become better at any sort of physical discipline is to either do more of the sport or perform exercises that lend themselves directly to it.
Think of being on your feet much more than you are used to. Longer distance walking done constantly would result in you not feeling fatigued nearly it as much as someone who sparsely walks and sits all day.
Muscular strength is another important aspect of physiotherapy that can benefit your golf game. Proper strength training can help you stay steady during the swing and even keep your posture better.
Even if you are already working on your strength, a physical therapist can track your progress and make sure that you are doing the right exercises for your golf performance.
Poor Mobility and Flexibility
Strangely enough, even people that are in good shape often need to perform flexibility and mobility drills. Tight ankles, shoulders, and hips can be a major hindrance for golfers and that is where physical therapy can help.
It is possible to stretch specific muscles, both dynamically and statically, before or after playing to increase flexibility and the range of motion in your joints. This way they are less prone to injury while you play and can perform the movements with more grace and efficiency.
Foam rollers and massage balls can be great tools to use during physical therapy sessions in order
Injury Prevention and Recovery
Golfers are often prone to injury while playing due to their erratic motions and the tension they put onto their bodies. Physical therapy is an excellent way of preventing injuries, as well as aiding in recovery if one does occur.
Therapists are trained to identify potential sources of injury and create a plan that keeps you safe while also helping you reach your golf performance goals. Massage, stretches, and strengthening exercises are all components of physiotherapy that can help to decrease the chances of injury.
Good nutrition also goes a far way in helping the process of recovery. Collagen, the primary structural protein can promote healing of joints and connective tissue, and is highly recommended to be taken daily.
They are also highly qualified in helping you get back on your feet if an injury does occur. A physical therapist will know what stretches, exercises, or modalities to use depending on the type and severity of the injury.
Physiotherapy also has components of kinesiology and exercise science, meaning that therapists are well-equipped to identify and fix any biomechanical issues you have.
These could be anything from having too much rotation during the swing to not having enough power due to incorrect muscle activation.
By utilizing movement assessment, laser analysis, and other tools, therapists can pinpoint the issue and suggest suitable corrective exercises for you.
Correct Equipment Choice
Yes, you read that correctly. Fitters aren't the only people who can help you choose the right equipment for your game.
Physiotherapists are well-versed in the anatomy and physiology of golfers, which makes them qualified to assist with finding the right club, shaft, and grip size for both comfort and power during the swing.
Additionally, they can also provide advice on what kind of shoes or orthotics to use when playing to make for a great playing experience.
Overuse injuries are popular in any sport, normally occurring as a result of an overzealous practice program.
Physical therapists are an important part of the rehabilitation process for this type of injury and can give you advice on how to prevent re-injury. They will also be able to advise you on other lifestyle factors that may be causing overuse injuries, such as poor posture when sitting or sleeping, nutritional deficiencies, and lack of rest.
Training every day without a day off is a recipe for trouble, and will almost certainly lead to an injury that will incapacitate you for an extended period of time.
These are easily the most avoidable complication of golf, and any other sport for that matter.
Complications Of Poor Physical Health
What can happen if you neglect this advice and go it on your own? Many things can go wrong, some of which include:
Rotator Cuff Injury
The rotator cuff muscles are small band-like structures that run across the shoulder and into the arm. They provide stability to the shoulder joint when swinging, but can be easily strained or torn if too much force is applied.
These are often very difficult injuries to recover from, as they require a specific rehabilitation program tailored to the individual’s needs. Not to mention the fact that you will be incapacitated until that injury heals.
Golf elbow, otherwise known as tennis elbow, is an overuse injury that is common among golfers. It is caused by repetitive motions of the elbow, causing inflammation of the tendons in the area.
Treatment for this includes rest and activity modification, as well as stretching and strengthening exercises to strengthen the muscles around the joint.
Physical therapy can provide guidance with all of these activities, ensuring that the injury heals properly and quickly.
Another overuse injury, wrist tendinopathy is caused by exerting too much pressure or force on the wrist joint. This can lead to pain and stiffness that prevents golfers from swinging properly.
In addition to being caused by overuse, tendinopathy can also result from an anatomical abnormality or poor technique, making it important to visit a physical therapist to assess the cause of the issue.
The goal of physical therapy is to reduce inflammation and restore normal wrist mechanics, while also strengthening the muscles around the joint.
Neck strains and associated injuries are much more common than is let on. Normally caused by poor posture or an improper golf swing, these injuries can cause pain and discomfort that may limit your ability to play.
Although minor strains to the neck are only self-limiting, it still means that you need to give it time and rest.
Gentle stretches and strengthening exercises can help to reduce tension in the neck and shoulder area, allowing you to resume your game in a short period of time, and without pain.
Back and Hip Pain
These types of pain can be caused by several different factors, from poor posture and muscular imbalances to an improper swing form.
But regardless of that, discomfort is severe as the pain can be felt all the way from your lower back and radiate to your legs.
Physical therapy approaches might include exercises that target the muscles which support the lower back and hips, as well as stretches for your hamstrings and hip flexors. It can also help increase mobility in these areas to reduce pain and improve your golf performance.
A lumbar brace worn during golf may also be prescribed, as this additional support can reduce strain on the lower back.
Performance-Based Outcomes Of Successful Physical Therapy
Here are some benefits that you can derive from physiotherapy that will show in your round:
- Reduced Fatigue
- Improved Balance
- Swing Optimization
- Improved Distance
- Enhanced Power
- Increased Flexibility
- Improved Strength
- Better Mobility
- Improved Posture
- Injury Prevention and Faster Recovery
The role of physical therapy is so much more than a tool for recovery after an injury. Not only will it help safeguard you from such an eventuality, but it can improve your performance by bettering your physical capability.
It doesn't take much- an annual consultation that offers guidance on what you can do on your own is a great place to start, and instituting corrective measures early on if an abnormality is noticed. You might be young- but don't wait until your physical condition deteriorates due to age before considering it.