If you have never played golf, or only seen the occasional golf swing on television, it is very difficult to imagine how hard golf can be on a person’s body. The myriad of injuries is endless. Golf and pain go hand in hand, especially in the neck.
A pain free golf swing requires a harmonious, coordinated motion of the shoulder girdle/cervical spine musculature. To gain this coordinated movement, the golfer must attain a precise balance of strength and flexibility. During the golfer’s downswing, when the club is building maximum speed, the phenomenon of “scapular lag” is of utmost importance. The golfer, who has concentrated his efforts in developing maximum strength and flexibility of his levator scapulae rhomboids, sternocleidomastoid, and trapezius muscles, will enjoy the greatest success.
One important aspect often overlooked when striving for the pain free neck is unrestricted cervical spine rotation. The ability to “retract” your neck and fully rotate to the left is necessary to achieve a good “top of back swing position” (for the right-handed golfer). Any limitation in flexibility in either plane of motion can cause muscle strain/or nerve pinching. The shearing and rotational stresses occurring at the lower neck at the top of backswing will be minimized with good muscle flexibility. Gentle rotation and side bending neck stretches done two times daily for duration of twenty seconds each will help eliminate pain and restriction.
The most common form of neck pain is mechanical in nature, often caused by overstretching of ligaments due to postural stresses. The golfer who spends countless hours practicing with the head in a forward, protruded position will always be at high risk to develop cervical (neck) pain. The walker versus the cart rider has far greater neck support as the postural muscles hold the head directly over the vertebral column, receiving maximum muscle support. The golf cart rider sits and relaxes in cart approximately 75 times during a round. To avoid the increasing “forward head” position, the golfer must learn their retracted position and perform 2-3 times each “sit down” in cart.
1) Batt, M., A Survey of Golf Injuries, British Journal of Sports Medicine 63-65, 1992