If your clubs are already cleaned and polished, you may want to polish your golfing technique, too, before you set foot on the green.

Both male and female golfers are plagued by three common injury sites: lower back, shoulder, and elbow, according to Dr. Andrew Dulak, Titleist Performance Institute-certified physical therapist with Madden Physical Therapy in Harrisburg.

“The first thing for any golfer is they have to know their limitations physically,” Dulak said. “I think that a lot of golfers watch it on TV, and they think that they should swing exactly like that, but their bodies don’t allow that.”

He sees ailing golfers most often for pain in those areas, which are affected by this very repetitive and rotational sport.

“In normal, everyday activity we rarely twist our bodies with the force that golf requires, so when you’re getting up to hit the ball, you actually can generate a lot more pressure on the lower back,” Dulak said.

“The lower back, because of [golf’s] repetitive motion, just feels like it has to take up so much of the work and apply pressure, and over time it’s going to wear down and pain is going to start,” Dulak said.

If the golfer is suffering from pain, Dulak provides free, full-body screenings to locate their specific limitations and trouble spots; sometimes the area of the body where the golfer feels discomfort isn’t the true source of the problem.

“It might not even be a lower-back issue—it could be the hip or a middle-back issue causing the lower back to hurt,” he said.

If the screening reveals a spinal or joint concern, manual therapy can be applied and followed up with corrective exercises.

Shoulder pain, another frequent golfers’ complaint, is a muscular issue often the result of tightness in another area of the body—again, the shoulder is overcompensating.

“For the shoulder, you have to look at the hips, the core, and the middle back to find out where the issues are,” Dulak said. “Then you match the limitations up to their swing characteristics.”

Dulak then creates an individually tailored treatment program that involves hands-on treatment, soft-tissue work, assisted stretches, and some manual therapy to the middle back or lower back and hips, depending on the site of the true problem.

“And the shoulder will get better by focusing on whatever their limitations are,” Dulak said.

Elbow pain is also muscular in nature and is similar to the shoulder: They are both “weaker” areas of the body with smaller muscles that attempt to absorb the force of the golf swing and compensate for whatever is unaligned elsewhere in the body.

“The weird thing about this is you can have elbow pain, but it could actually be coming from the hips,” Dulak said.

After a full-body screen, Dulak corrects the issue with physical therapy techniques.

Want to avoid injury in the first place? The No. 1 guideline is to know your physical limitations, Dulak reiterated.

He also recommended daily exercise to improve strength and flexibility; a good warm-up before play; and proper nutrition.

“If you’re not hydrating enough or eating the right foods, that puts stresses on the systems of the body and they won’t function as well—and your performance will suffer.”

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