From amateurs to professionals, almost every golfer is aware of the important role that his shoulders play in performing a backswing. A healthy shoulder is rather flexible and permits you to properly swing your arms and extend them over and behind the head. On the other hand, an injured shoulder will automatically make the game much more difficult and painful to play.
While it may seem simple to diagnose a shoulder injury, I want to highlight the fact that these wounds can take on various forms. To put it simply, the trickiest part comprises of the fact that it is difficult to differentiate between an injury and tired or sore muscles. In the following guide, I hope to clarify the symptoms that should get you thinking and the various options available for treating a damaged shoulder.
Whenever you start experiencing pain (yes, even mild pain), it is highly recommended to stop playing golf immediately. Ignoring it and making an effort to finish the round will not only make the ache worse, but it can also aggravate the injury. The best thing you can do given the circumstance is limit activities that require the use of your arm and ensure it gets plenty of rest. Resting your damaged shoulder implies:
- Using a sling, which acts like an efficient shoulder rest and a constant reminder to avoid lifting it
- Applying ice packs as often as possible in the first days following the accident
- Intake OTC pain and anti-inflammatory medication
- After 3 days, alternate ice packs with hot compresses to stimulate the blood circulation in the shoulder (remember to never place cold or hot objects directly onto your skin)
Exercises to help you with the recovery
As previously mentioned, following a shoulder injury you need to take it slow for at least the first 3 days. However, considering that in most cases immobility makes things worse, it is a good idea to start performing light stretching exercises after the initial rest period. Here are my top 3 recommendations:
Extensions: while you are standing up or sitting in a chair, lift your arm and reach out onwards as far as possible from the body. Lower your arm very slowly and repeat, but refrain from using a resistance band or small weights until the shoulder gets stronger.
Rotating the shoulder: for this exercise, you will need a bed that includes a solid edge (a work bench is equally suited). Sit face down on a bed and place your elbow on the rim so that it is at the same height as your shoulder. Point your fingers towards the ground and gradually rotate the upper part of your arm.
Circles: as the name of the exercise suggests, you will be making circles using your hands. Therefore, stand straight and lift your arms to the height of the shoulders; slowly move them upwards towards the ceiling, towards the back and then to the initial position.
As a side note, you will know you are healed when you can perform all kinds of movements without experiencing any pain. Otherwise, consult a medical professional.
The basic symptoms of an injured shoulder
If you haven’t played golf in a while and are generally living a sedentary lifestyle, then chances are that you will experience soreness after engaging in a golf session. However, if the pain does not subside within a week, it is mandatory that you see a physician. More often than not, numbing pain and the inability to properly utilize your arms and shoulders are the best indicators of serious damage. Essentially, if you are experiencing any of the 4 following symptoms, then it is advisable to contact a doctor immediately:
- If you heard a “pop” sound just before you start feeling pain, then it could be a sign of a dislocated shoulder.
- In case you feel high levels of pain whenever you lift your arm, then it can be an indicator of a separated shoulder (from the clavicle).
- In the eventuality that you cannot move your shoulder at all, then you could have a condition dubbed “frozen” shoulder.
- If the pain is acute mostly when you swing, then it can mean that you have damaged the rotator cuff.
Chad is a writer for PGA Village and because he himself has suffered a gold shoulder injury before, he hopes this article will enlighten his fellow golfers.