(Congratulations to Zach Johnson, who won the 2015 British Open on Monday, July 20. His dad is Cedar Rapids, Iowa, chiropractor David Johnson, D.C., who graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1977.)
Most amateurs swing their clubs at 75-95 miles per hour—a motion that turns, twists and pulls the torso. In four hours on the green, a golfer might attempt more than 100 of these strokes between intermittently dragging a 40-pound bag across several miles of uneven terrain.
In The Golf Biomechanic’s Manual, author Paul Chek equates the level of exertion in golf with sports such as football, hockey and martial arts.
“Golf is a physically demanding game that requires explosive power, but at the same time, incredible precision and complexity,” says exercise physiologist Dr. Greg Wells. “For example, during the swing the average male recruits 30 pounds of muscle and uses nearly every single joint in the body to produce 2,000 pounds of force in less than 0.2 seconds.”
It’s no wonder, then, that more than 80 percent of all golfers suffer pain or injuries related to the sport. Back pain is the most common, given that 90 percent of golf injuries involve the neck or back, but elbows, shoulders and hips are also likely to develop problems.
In other words, if you see five people together on the green, odds are four of them are hurting. And given the passion golfers show for their game, odds are they’re more concerned about how the pain will affect their swing rather than vice versa.
The good news is that regular chiropractic care can help not only treat the pain but prevent future injuries, all while helping the patient maintain the flexibility required by this demanding sport. In a study comparing different treatment options for chronic pain in athletes, including golfers, chiropractic techniques proved more effective at reducing pain than other treatments, including physical therapy. Golfers who regularly visit a chiropractor—such as Tiger Woods and 75 percent of his fellow PGA competitors—also report significant improvements in their game.
“Through chiropractic adjustive care, along with key exercises, the spinal joints can share the excessive loads generated by golfers by ensuring that all the spinal joints equally share the loads,” says Dave Juehring, D.C., director of Palmer College’s Chiropractic Rehabilitation and Sports Injury Department on the Davenport, Iowa, campus. “If there’s poor spinal alignment and posture then only a few joints take all of the load, making them prone to injury and trauma, which causes pain. But by sharing the load equally the chance of injury greatly reduces. This leads to more quality playing time and the potential to increase force production and control with the golf swing.”
Here’s a look at how chiropractic techniques keep your back, neck and joints in shape both on and off the green:
Strengthening Your Posture
Good posture is critical for protecting both your back and your golf score.
Repeatedly twisting your torso at a high velocity inflicts a lot of torque and stress on your spine, opening the door for muscle and joint dysfunction. Poor posture limits the spine’s ability to rotate, which can lead to overcompensation and increased risk of injury. And if you’re like 90 percent of the population, you default to a forward-head posture, which can severely compromise your swing.
Ongoing chiropractic care keeps the spine in alignment and improves its range of motion while correcting any joint or muscle dysfunction. A chiropractor will often begin by checking the patient’s posture for the proper secondary curves in the spine, which act as levers during the spine’s rotation. A series of exercises designed to correct these secondary curves may then be prescribed to help build postural strength.
With the right conditioning, golfers can adjust both their posture and movement patterns to prevent injury and maximize swing efficiency. A chiropractor can help by providing a baseline assessment, suggesting corrective exercises and monitoring improvements in the spine’s rotation.
Enhancing Your Flexibility
In addition to posture, a good golf swing relies on your ability to bend and flex. Think of your spine as a rubber band: The farther back you pull it, the more velocity it will have upon release.
A more flexible spine will allow you to add power to your swing without straining your back muscles to compensate.
We all lose flexibility as we age, and even a minor injury can cause a loss in range of motion. Chiropractic adjustments can help restore some of this lost functionality. During an adjustment, the chiropractor takes the joint through its full range of motion, effectively reopening that pathway. Spinal manipulation also moves the fluid within your vertebrae, delivering more nutrients and helping to eliminate waste.
When these stiff joints loosen up, the rest of your body doesn’t have to work as hard to carry out the full arc of your golf swing, reducing the risk of further injury.
These are just a few of the ways chiropractic care can help golfers stay fit for the green. Contact us to learn more about what chiropractic techniques might be right for you.