Want Healthy Shoulders? Move Them!

“Dear, The Golfing Doc; I had shoulder problems in the past and they went away after seeing my Chiropractor. I’m starting to have some problems again when golfing. Any suggestions to keep my shoulders healthy? Thanks. Mike A., Seattle, WA.”

Shoulder problems can be a real nuisance. Whether it is a small issue like general stiffness after working out or a more significant problem like a rotator cuff tear or tendinitis, shoulders are sensitive and prone to injury.

I treat a large number of shoulder conditions on a daily basis. Regardless of the severity or type of condition, it’s possible that a shoulder problem could be resolved after only a few weeks of conservative care or, alternatively, it could take months or even years to heal. There really is no predictable timeline for recovery. With that said; one thing is for sure; if you can keep your shoulders healthy and moving properly, your chances of injury are greatly reduced. In golf, any shoulder injury can be detrimental to your game. It can even cause you to stop playing due to pain and discomfort.

When most people think of their shoulder, they often think of the ball and socket joint. This joint stands out because it has the greatest range of motion. It’s impossible not to associate that particular joint with every movement you do with your shoulder: reaching up, forward, behind you, under you, or when pushing, pulling, or even swinging your golf club. Even though that joint moves a lot, it is only one part of a multi-joint complex that must move in sync– called the shoulder girdle.

The shoulder girdle also includes your scapula, or “shoulder blade”, which forms a joint with the back of your upper rib cage, and your clavicle, or “collar bone”, which then connects to your sternum, or “breast bone” at one end and your scapula at the other. Sounds complicated right? Well, it is! Now add all the supporting muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint capsules, and nerves, and the shoulder is even more of a spider web. Therefore, no matter how minor a shoulder problem may be, it can be quite complex.

There are plenty of things you can do at home to help reduce the risk of injuring your shoulder. Keeping it strong by doing general exercises– like using small weights or bands– is perfect. No heavy weights are needed. However, my recommendation before doing any strengthening is to first make sure the shoulder is moving properly. Good range of motion will allow you to build even greater strength and also keep your shoulder healthy at multiple angles and positions. Therefore, it’s so important to have a healthy shoulder before playing golf. If you don’t have good shoulder mobility, or if you strengthen it too fast or too much, you’ll be prone to injury. You will only be strong within your limited range.

Here are some exercises that you can do daily to help keep your shoulder moving better. Be sure to hold your stretches for 30 seconds and repeat them up to 3 times per side. Try to do them a few times per day. As you can see in the photos, you can even do these exercises while playing golf. I recommend that you do them before you play or practice. And, as always, if you experience any pain or discomfort during any of these exercises, stop immediately and consult your physician.

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