Neck Pain and Golf

golf neck pain lee westwood

Golfer Lee Westwood is plagued by neck pain during this year's Abu Dhabi Championship.

Padraig Harrington, three-time major winner, admitted that he nearly pulled out of The Masters last year because of neck pain from golfing. During his warm up he felt his neck click and then he found he could no longer turn to the right. He went on to play but had a disastrous first round and, whilst Masters success is not a consideration for most, many fellow golfers with neck pain will understand his plight.

Even regular golfers, however, may not realize that there are simple things that can drastically reduce the risk of neck pain when golfing. This year’s Abu Dhabi Championship is also raising concerns about neck pain in golfers as Lee Westwood reveals his agony from neck pain and radiating pain in his arms. Physical therapy is key according to Westwood who is determined to loosen up his neck and get back on course to win another title.

Golf Posture and Neck Pain

Golf swings involve a rotation of the cervical spine, including the upper shoulders, neck and head. This movement is hampered when spinal alignment is even slightly awry, with many golfers finding that they must relearn proper posture before doing away with golf-related neck pain. A key problem that leads to neck pain on the golf course is when someone sticks their head too far forward, thus putting stress on the muscles in the spine. For every inch of forward projection of the head, the muscles and cervical spine have to cope with an added ten pounds of force so making sure that your head is nicely balanced on the shoulders can make a huge difference to muscle fatigue, strain and neck pain in golf and in general.

Cause of Neck Pain in Golf

Even though the head stays largely motionless during a golf swing, the forward protrusion of the head can cause tightness across the shoulders and upper back and make neck pain and injury more likely. The cervical spine is less flexible when the muscles are strained and cramped and golf teachers can usually see this in action as the head is jerked backward during the swing in players whose head is too far forward when swinging the club. It is important to recognize this early as golf is all about repeating the same action over and over and so any problems quickly become cemented and more difficult to reverse.

Symptoms of Golfing Neck Pain

Golfers with neck pain due to this pattern will often experience the pain as a crick in the neck, or a sudden cracking noise and subsequent stiffness. It may hurt to shrug, to turn the neck, or to bend the head forward or backward. This set of symptoms may be alleviated by physical therapy to reduce muscle tension and work on improving strength and posture. Doing this in good time means that there is less risk of the chronically tight neck and shoulder muscles pulling vertebrae out of place and causing permanent or severe cervical spinal problems.

Golfers’ Shrug

Where golfers have chronic neck pain it is often easy to spot the so-called ‘golfers’ shrug.’ This is also referred to as the coat-hanger syndrome as players have their shoulders permanently raised up to near their ears. This is not just a hazard for professional golfers as it can affect those who spend all day at a desk job and then the weekend on the fairway. Even non-golfers who are frequently stressed and tense can adopt this posture over time. Knowing some good daily neck stretches and exercises can help keep the muscles strong and flexible and stave off back and neck problems on and off the green.

Treating Golf-Related Neck Pain

When neck pain from golf becomes chronic and debilitating it is often not enough to simply rest as a later return to the game will likely result in the same problem reoccurring. Seeing a qualified osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist can help identify the root of the problem and it may be wise to seek special help from an experienced golfing instructor to correct swing problems. Severe neck pain of any kind should always be investigate by a physician as neck pain when golfing may be a sign of underlying cervical spinal issues. As it is, Padraig Harrington is back on form, seemingly neck pain-free and golfing happily. With a little care and attention, you too could be too.

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    I started getting neck pain from playing golf, but I ignored it and eventually had to get spine surgery in Houston. If you are experiencing something similar, get it looked at right away!

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