One of the most persistent problems I’ve had with my own body from golfing has been neck pain.
After treating hundreds of golfers over the last 19 years, I know I’m not alone with that complaint.
Understanding why neck pain is aggravated by the golf swing starts with better insight into the demands that are placed on a neck during the swing.
The golf swing is basically a set of rotations of the body. As your body starts to turn away from the ball while you are taking the club back, your head essentially rotates in the opposite direction.
This occurs because your head needs to stay still with the eyes focused on the ball as the body rotates away.
For a right handed golfer, performing a full swing take away requires about 90 degrees of neck rotation to the left.
As you swing the club back towards the ball, the winding up of the spine that you did on the take away reverses and once you’ve reached impact with the ball, your body continues to rotate through, causing the neck to rotate to the right relative to the body.
On a full swing, a right handed golfer will need approximately 90 degrees of right neck rotation to reach full shoulder turn.
You can quickly test this on yourself by getting into your set up position without a golf club and going into your full back swing position.
If you are a right handed golfer you should notice that your left shoulder is now under your chin. This is 90 degrees of neck rotation to the left.
Now swing through to impact and to your follow through position. Your trail, or right shoulder, should now be under your chin. This is 90 degrees of neck rotation to the right.
If you had an inability to achieve either of these positions, with or without pain, you probably have a neck restriction and probably some underlying neck issue.
If you did notice you lack movement in your neck when you did this swing test, this simple stretch done on a daily basis may help improve that lost movement.
Sit or stand with your head in a good posture gently keeping your chin tucked. Slowly rotate to look over your left shoulder (keeping chin tucked).
At the end of this movement, you can add slight overpressure by using the left hand against the right side of your chin.
Hold this position for two seconds and then return your head facing forward. Repeat to the right and hold two seconds.
Perform six to eight stretches each direction and do this daily. If you experience pain, dizziness, or symptoms into your arm while doing this stretch; stop.
If you find this happens every time you attempt this stretch, you should be looked at by your doctor or other qualified health care practitioner. It is normal to feel a light stretching discomfort at the end of the range, but this discomfort should go away soon after you release the stretch.
There are many conditions that can cause pain and loss of motion in the neck.
Disk injury, osteoarthritis, ligament or muscle damage (acute or chronic) and/or poor muscle balance from years of bad posture are just some of the possible reasons.
Other motion restrictions in the shoulders, mid back or hips may also change your swing and cause increase compensatory stress on the neck.
His compensatory stress on the neck can cause excessive shearing and compression during the end ranges of neck rotation lead to pain with the swing.
For these reasons, I believe a golfer dealing with neck pain should be looked at by a qualified health care provider who has a strong musculoskeletal and golf specific knowledge background.