Rheumatologist’s Guide to Golfing with Joint Pain or Arthritis

Keep pain at bay while out on the green

Rheumatologist's Guide to Golfing with Joint Pain or Arthritis

Do you think you can go the whole season with your golf buddies – especially if you have arthritis and an aching back?

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The answer is yes! You can feel good through the season, but it will take a little common sense and preparation. In fact, studies have found that at least 40 percent of golfers play with injuries. Most golf injuries occur in the lower back, elbows or shoulders. In addition, the most common kind of arthritis — osteoarthritis– occurs in the hands, hips, knees, neck or lower back.

Here are some tips to help keep you playing through the fall.

Before Play

  • Try to keep your target weight. Overweight players put significant impact on various joints causing pain and worsening arthritis.
  • Do warm ups. Techniques as simple as a brisk five- to 10-minute walk prior to going to the practice range can help.
  • Drink plenty of water. Your body is typically in a dehydrated state in the morning. It is helpful to drink one and a half bottles of water – about 25 ounces – before your round and about three bottles during your round. Please check with your physician if you have medical conditions that restrict fluid intake.
  • Eat light. Try to eat a small meal one to two hours before play or practice. Large meals in your stomach moves blood away from your brain and muscles affecting play and performance. Low fat, lean protein and complex carbohydrates are preferred.
  • Wear supports if needed. Aids, including oversized grips (if you have hand arthritis) or spikeless golf shoes will help to reduce the increased rotational stress on hips, knees and ankles in the typical golf swing. There are many braces (for arthritic knees) to minimize pain during the golf swing.
  • Plan ahead. If possible, meet with a golf professional or golf-specific therapist before the season starts to create a conditioning program that is easy to work into your daily routine. There are certified professionals who understand the injured or arthritic golfers and can help.

During Play

  • Walk, don’t ride. Try to minimize your time riding in a golf cart. If you are able, switch to walking or riding with your partner every other hole. That will help protect your back muscles from spasm during the constant bounce of the cart.
  • Choose drinks wisely. Hydrate with water or sports drinks that do not have high fructose corn syrup which can cause gout. And avoid alcoholic beverages, especially during the hot humid days.
  • Use sunscreen and wear a hat. An SPF of 30 will do. The incidence of skin cancer in golfers is on the rise!
  • Bring healthy snacks. Eat snacks that are high in carbohydrates and low in fat such as bananas, dried fruits (raisins, cherries or cranberries), energy bars with whole grains (wheat or oats) and nuts such as almonds or peanuts.

After Play

  • Stretch. Do static stretching exercises after your golf round (not before).
  • Ice. For painful or recently injuring areas, ice for 15 to 20 minutes. Avoid heat to an affected area, as it will increase circulation and inflammation.
  • Eat and rehydrate. Within two hours of a round of golf, it’s important to replace stores of glycogen (our body’s primary source of energy) in the muscles and liver for a full recovery and for optimal performance the next day.

And above all, have a great time. Enjoy it to the end of golf season!
Contributor: Scott R. Burg, DO, Rheumatologist

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