The following is a list of tips and suggested modifications for golfers dealing with neck pain or disorders, as well as for those who may be returning to the game after surgery.
- The Essentials: Good practices for golfers to promote spinal health and prevent injury
- General guidelines
- Golfers with spinal stenosis or facet arthropathy of the neck
- Golfers with disc conditions of the neck
Good practices that promote spinal health and prevent injury:
- Warm up your muscles before starting your golf game.
- Perform gentle exercises focusing on the upper back and hip rotation, as well as gentle stretches for the neck and arms.
- Do some practice swings before getting into the game.
- Maintain good form. This requires adequate hip rotation and the ability to reach the arm across the body.
- Concentrate on isolating the movement of the hips and upper trunk from the neck and lower back regions.
- Maintain stable balance. Golfers should be able to get into a desirable finish position and hold steady on the lead leg for 20 - 30 seconds.
What to AVOID:
- Standing and swinging on an uneven surface, which can affect the motion and stability of the spine.
- Climbing in and out of a sand trap.
- Over-rotating during the back swing.
What to be aware of:
- Poor shoulder range of motion can put added pressure on the neck.
- Weakness of the trunk and shoulder muscles challenges a golfer's balance in golf-related movement patterns. Strengthening these muscles will restore that balance.
- Consider reducing the swing length for golfers just returning to the game after a neck injury or surgery.
- Maintain postural awareness; proper muscle activation patterns throughout the trunk, hips and shoulders lead to optimal trunk stability and core activation.
- Make a gradual progression in practice time, number of swings made and number of holes played.
- If grip strength is affected, use thicker grips to maintain pressure throughout the swing.
Golfers with spinal stenosis or facet arthropathy of the neck:
- Gentle motion exercises including rotation, flexion and extension of the neck may be performed during the warm-up before the golf game, as long as they don't cause or worsen symptoms.
- Gentle motion exercises of the middle back, focusing on rotation, may also be also be performed.
- Consider returning to golf by starting with putting and chipping.
- Slowly progress to a more upright swing position, perhaps using longer irons and woods.
Golfers with disc conditions of the neck:
- Hold off on playing golf and seek professional guidance if symptoms radiate into the arm or hand.
- Maintain communication with your physical therapist or physician if symptoms are recent or severe.
- Maintain good posture by limiting rounding of the shoulders and avoiding a forward head position.
- Limit cervical spinal flexion (the action of tucking the chin). Hinge from the hips to keep eye contact with the ball while limiting flexion of the neck. This may require longer clubs and/or an increased stance width.
- Consider returning to golf by swinging the longer irons and woods with 50% effort.
- Slowly work toward using the shorter clubs, chipping and putting.
- Consider using a device for tee and ball placement and retrieval.
- Consider using an extended shaft putter.
- Use the single-leg bending technique to tee or retrieve the ball.