Arthritis can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints that can interfere with daily activities and make physical activity difficult. You may be tempted to give up physical activity altogether to avoid pain.
If golf is one of your favorite activities, you don’t necessarily have to give it up. In fact, light physical activity like golf can actually help improve joint motion and coordination. You may have to make some modifications to your equipment and technique, but you can still play golf with arthritis.
Get the Right Equipment
American Golf recommends graphite shafts for golfers with arthritis. Graphite shafts are lightweight and can help reduce vibrations in the arms and shoulders. If you have arthritis in your hands, you may also want to opt for an oversize grip to reduce pressure and tension on the hands. The Arthritis Foundation also recommends a graphite shaft, as well as perimeter-weighted heads to absorb shock when you swing. A lower compression golf ball can also reduce shock because it "gives" more when you hit it.
You may also want to wear golf gloves to help with grip strength. Shoe orthotics can provide extra cushioning to decrease arthritis pain while you are on your feet and walking the course. You should also consider getting a golf bag with a wheeled cart so you don’t have to pull or carry your bag.
Warm Up First
As with any physical activity, a warm-up is important to protect the joints and prevent injuries. Always spend at least 5-10 minutes stretching before your tee time. There are a few different stretches that you can do to help improve your range of motion before you get out on the course. Stretch your hamstrings and try arm circles, trunk twists, and side bends. You should also do some practice swings at 50-75% of the strength that you normally would to warm yourself up for regular swings.
Adjust Your Swing
If arthritis gets in the way of your swing, you may want to consider working with an instructor to adjust your swing style in a way that is easier for you. If you have back pain, you may find that a classic swing is more comfortable than a modern or reverse-C swing. Try to keep your back as straight as possible. Stop your backswing at the 3 o’clock position to reduce strain on the back, shoulders, and elbows. Also, make sure you are shifting your weight correctly on the downswing, transferring your weight from one leg to another with the natural momentum of the swing.
Participate in a Treatment Plan to Help Manage Symptoms
Before beginning any physical activity, including golf, you should consult with your doctor to make sure that there are no restrictions. Your doctor can also help you with a treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms so that you can play golf with as little pain as possible. Your doctor may also be able to give suggestions to alleviate any pain you may experience after playing golf as a result of arthritis.
There's no need to put away your golf clubs! With the right modifications, golf can actually be very beneficial for arthritis.