Golf & How Massage Therapy Can Help Improve Your Focus, Physical Health & Performance
The elusive perfect golf swing..something many of us have dedicated years of our lives trying to achieve, but yet so many have failed. Yes, there is an incredibly intricate science to how a golfball is hit; each movement we make can have a drastic impact on how far and in what direction the ball is going to travel. Aside from sheer understanding and awareness of the mechanics behind a golf swing, another essential element must be taken into consideration; our physical and mental health. If we are not at the top of our game in these areas, it is going to be virtually impossible to carry out the sophisticated details of a well executed swing. By first working to improve flexibility, increase range of motion and alleviate any physical pain, discomfort or tightness, one can become better equipped to perform to his or her potential. A specialized massage geared towards golfers can focus on the main muscle groups utilized in a golf swing, helping to not only prevent injury but to also improve stamina, performance and mindset.
The golf swing can be broken down into four distinct movements: the address, backswing, downswing and follow through. In each of these motions, there are a variety of muscles being used. If any one of these muscles is inflamed, sore, tight or fatigued, it can have a direct impact on your ability to perform one or more of these specific movements well.
The address, or initial stance, establishes the foundation for the entire golf swing. It involves trying to create a neutral, athletic and balanced stance as the individual bends slightly at the waist and knees. Through the utilization of massage, an individual can achieve a deeper bend at the waist while maintaining a neutral spine, both of which are essential in establishing a solid golf stance.
The next motion is the backswing. This aspect of the overall golf swing focuses on positioning the club to transfer power from the body to the ball in the most effective and dynamic way possible. This movement relies heavily on a rotation at both the shoulders and trunk, involving a large portion of the back, chest and oblique muscles. It is imperative that these muscles are not stiff, tight or restricted in any way. Through massage, greater flexibility and range of motion can be experienced, helping the golfer to achieve a deep rotation in the upper torso which will ultimately lead to a more powerful, robust swing.
The final movements are the downswing and follow through. The downswing continues to generate power as contact is made between the club and golf ball. This motion relies heavily on the legs and feet to establish a stable platform. As the club is swung forward, a drastic shift in the pelvis occurs and obliques, anterior hips and gluteus muscles are ignited. In addition, much force and pressure is placed on the forearm muscles as the golfer clutches to the club and propels it forward towards the ball. The forearms can easily become tight and impact a golfer’s ability to maintain stability in the swing. Massage works to release the tension built up in these muscles so that the swing has a fluid, secure, smooth connection from beginning to end.
As seen in the above video, there are a wide variety of muscles utilized in a golf swing. As a result, golfers are vulnerable to injury if their muscles are sore, tight and inflamed. The most common ailment suffered by golfers is lower back pain. Although it is the area of the body where pain is experienced, it rarely is the cause of the pain. Most often, the lumbar spine is overworking to compensate for other areas of the body that are injured, weak, inflexible and tight.
Some other common injuries include arthritis in the shoulders due to wear and tear, which can be painful and ultimately affect your range of motion while golfing. Knee injury is also an extremely common ailment experienced amongst golfers. The golf swing puts an enormous amount of torque on the knee, ultimately putting stress on the ligaments that stabilize the knee and prevent your knees from buckling. Additionally, golfers often suffer from plantar fascitis, a stress injury that refers to the inflammation of the thick band of tissue connecting the heel to the forefoot. This can be extremely painful and with so much walking, twisting and standing involved in golf, there is minimal time for the feet to rest and recover. Lastly, golfer’s elbow is a condition that causes pain where the tendons in the forearm muscles attach to the bony area on the inside of the elbow. This pain can spread to the wrist. Common symptoms include tenderness, stiffness, weakness and tingling.
Massage has been widely utilized as both preventative care and treatment of golf injuries. As the therapist works to circulate fresh, oxygenized blood to all areas of the body, the muscles become re-energized. As a result, the massage ultimately helps prevent inflammation, inflexibility and sore, tight muscles. Massage can be a truly healing experience that can help reduce discomfort, prevent injury and help to calm the mind and body. Through the utilization of massage on a regular basis, golfers can compete to their best potential, improving their focus and overall performance.
Author: Nikki P. Woods, MSW, LCSW