By Doctor Harry Sese
“Dear, The Golfing Doc; I often have neck pain and stiffness. I’m not sure what it’s from. Can this be affecting my golf swing in any way? Thanks. Hank A., Seattle, WA.”
Neck pain while playing golf is not normal. Neither is pain after playing golf. You probably think stiffness and soreness are okay and normal, but they are not either. Your neck should feel good before you play, while you are playing, and especially after you play golf. If you are having some pain or discomfort, there are several possibilities as to why this may be happening. Here are some examples of common causes.
Arthritis is one of the first things people blame their neck pain on. Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, spondylosis, and OA– is a condition that we will all have at some point. The location and severity depends on each individual and other factors such as previous injuries, underlying health issues, and possible complicating factors. The one thing we know about arthritis is that its symptoms include morning stiffness, improvement with exercise, and soreness after activity. The progression is predictable.
Stress and muscle tension is another common culprit of neck pain, stiffness, and soreness. It is true that a lot of people hold their stress in their neck and shoulders. This causes their trapezius muscles, the big ones at the top of your shoulders, to get tight. The more stress and tension you experience, the tighter these muscles get. In the end, any tightness in these muscles can significantly affect your neck range of motion.
In case you are not aware of this, you need good range of motion in your neck for your golf swing. You may have had a lesson and have been told to keep your neck steady; however, it does need to be able to rotate. Here is a quick test you can try to see how much your neck actually moves.
If you are a right-handed golfer, take the club to the top of your backswing. Note the relationship and distance between your chin and left shoulder. See how close they are to each other. Now go into your downswing and stop at impact. Again, note the distance between your chin and right shoulder. If you stand up, you are basically looking fully to the left during your backswing and looking fully to the right during your downswing. Imagine if you did not have sufficient rotation in either direction. Have you ever noticed that if you are suffering from a kink in the neck and can’t move it? Your golf swing is totally affected!
Because of the sensitive structures in and around the neck, it is always recommended you get a thorough examination if you are having any neck pain, stiffness, soreness, tenderness, or even headaches. All of these symptoms can be indicative of something more serious. On a positive note, the symptoms may be minor and the issue can be treated easily. Proper treatment and exercises can potentially prevent future neck problems from progressing.
Here are some neck exercises you can try at home, at the office, or while playing golf. Hold your stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat several times on each side. If you experience any pain or discomfort during any of the exercises, or have any underlying neck conditions, please stop immediately and consult your physician.