Keeping Pain at Bay Through the Golf Season

Don't let your arthritis and aching back keep you from off the fairway

So, it’s springtime and you have watched enough golf on television. You have started to wear down the carpeting in your living room perfecting your winter swing. The impact bag you have used for months has convinced you that a groundbreaking season is at hand. It is an awesome feeling.

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You anticipate the league championship and all the recognition within your grasp. But wait; are you ready to make that great leap with your golf buddies – especially with your arthritis and your aching back?

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 you get ready for a great season and keep you playing through October.

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Before Play

  • If possible, meet with a golf professional or golf-specific therapist before the season 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.
  • Try to keep your target weight. Overweight players put significant impact on various joints causing pain and worsening arthritis.
  • Warm up techniques as simple as a brisk 5 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

During Play

  • 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.
  • 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 (an SPF of 30 will do) and wear a hat. The incidence of skin cancer in golfers is on the rise!
  • 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

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  • Do static stretching exercises after your golf round (not before).
  • Ice painful or recently injuring areas 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 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. It is going to be an awesome golf season!

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