This post is dedicated to injury and pain and the effects that it has on the golf swing. The body’s response to pain is quite specific: when you experience pain, whether it be through standing on a piece of glass, twisting or stretching muscle too far, your body has a specific response to avoid that pain at all times. Most people have experienced this firsthand: if you have ever stepped on a stone with a barefoot, you walk gingerly on that foot even after the stone has been removed.
The Technical Explanation
This pain response is the way your body allows the area to heal, but what happens is that when we continually do something that is painful to us, we change the pattern in which we do it. Let’s take the example of someone hurting their right foot. As you limp from your right foot to your left, you increase the pressure on the left side of the body. You compensate. The pain you feel in your foot is registered by your brain, and it adjusts the rest of your body to minimize that pain. Your right hip will elevate during walking, you will use the left leg’s muscles more while reducing the amount of stress on the right leg’s muscles. By doing this you will decrease torso rotation in one direction and increase torso rotation in the other direction. If this goes on for 2 to 3 weeks, you can imagine the amount of stress put on the muscles and joints.
This movement is rewritten in the brain to avoid all pain. When your foot is better your brain does not automatically go back to the original walking strategy. You have to relearn how to walk. This may not sound like much, but, if a pattern has been changed, it takes 3000+ repetitions to re-write the correct pattern into the neurological system.
If we look at the golf swing, and your hips are locked up – meaning they do not rotate the average 40° like they should – you are overcompensating anywhere from your knee and ankle all the way out through the lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine including the shoulders and elbows and wrists. Now if you are playing golf constantly or have been playing golf for a long period of time, this incorrect pattern due to your hip’s inability to rotate, be through injury lack of range of motion or pain, you are going to have a hard time trying to rewrite that pattern without first taking your body back to the basics of movement and flexibility.
The take-home message from this post focuses directly on injury and pain. If you are playing golf with pain anywhere in your body, if you are playing golf with any injury whatsoever, that is directly affecting how you swing your club for any shot, be it a drive a chip or a putt. You are rewriting neurological pathways that are really trying to reduce that pain. This may sound good, but in the long run all this is doing is harming your body and your golf game.
If you are interested in learning more about improving your body and playing pain-free golf, check out Bret’s program HERE.