Why does my golf swing hurt more after I stretch?
The mystery of myofascial pain.
Have you ever wondered at the resilience of a spider's web? It is an amazing structure produced my a creature often smaller than our fingernails. It is the life-source of the humble, adroit yet influential arachnid. "The spider skillfully grasps with its hands and is in king's palaces" Proverbs 30:28
Our bodies, like other creatures are designed of a skillfully laid web that is resilient yet flexible and helps to hold the contours of our body and protect our organs from the potential harm of the inevitable laws of motion that occur during our daily activities.
Try running with an armload of water balloons
If you have, you know how difficult it is to preserve them intact until you reach your destination. When you put them in a nylon mesh bag, however, the chances of staying dry are greatly increased. In the same way, were it not for the fascial system, our liquid bodies would be uncontrollable during the slightest of motions.
If you have ever butchered an animal, you would have noticed a white film or "grissel" that surrounds the muscles and organs. Some cuts of meat are more 'grissely" than others depending on the source of the cut of meat and the age of the animal at slaughter. Much of that grissel is fascia and can be very tough stuff. Yet in a live animal it also must stretch to accomodate movement.
In our bodies, fascia pervades every muscle and organ. If fascia is thickened through injury, inflammation and scar tissue formation, it loses its flexibility and so forces are passed elsewhere in the fascial system.
So, when we have an injury, fascia becomes less mobile and will pass stresses onto adjacent and sometimes distant muscle groups and nerve endings. The body sometimes recognizes these stresses as diverse burning sensations and it is often diagnosed as 'myofascial pain syndrome' or MFPS.
Sit up straight!
Sometimes I wonder if resistance to our mother's instructions doesn't condemn men to a life of poor posture. After all, only "geeks" and "momma's boys" sit up straight when their mother tells them too, right? For both young men and young women, the slouch posture seems to convey the appropriate message of conformity to mediocrity. I'm no psychologist, I'm just sayin'...
Anyway, do you realize that poor posture is limiting your ability to play pain free golf? Let's take a closer look at fascia.
"I'm just all out of whack!"
This is an expression often heard in the clinic. We take it to mean in a general sense that the client is expressing a sense of imbalance. As part of an evaluation, we are attempting to locate the source of the imbalance and address it with effective interventions.
Fascia (fa sha) is one of the physiological elements that we assess to determine to what degree it is inflamed, restricted or weak. Since it is connective tissue and not contractile tissue, it generally cannot be strengthened with exercise and in fact may be weakened by inappropriate or too vigorous of an exercise routine.
It is important to identify past and ongoing sources of inflammation that may be causing more scar tissue to develop leading to more restrictions. In some cases, scar tissue formation can be so severe that surgical intervention is required to remove the built up adhesions.
Throughout our bodies, there is a dynamic exchange taking place to maintain balance. When we are injured, we trade mobility for stability. The term "CRIOR response" has been coined. It is an acronym used to describe the process by which we react to a trauma.
Picture Lee Harvey Oswald
Remember the famous picture that captured Jack Ruby shooting the alleged assassin of President Kennedy? Oswald's response perfectly pictures the elements of the CRIOR response to trauma.
They are: Collapse, Retraction, Immobilization and Often Rotation. Painful stiimuli or the anticipation of such provokes this reaction. If it happens often enough, a fixed posture results requiring compensatory shifts throughout the body in order to maintain balance.
Practically speaking for the golfer: When we have pain and inflammation we will avoid moving into the painful range of motion, tend to collapse around the painful area or simply not use it. The demands of golf require a whole body movement so even an inflamed corn or wart is going to create an imbalance that has to be accommodated.
When we try to forcibly stretch and play through the pain, we are only going to prolong and aggravate inflamed tissue, build up more scar tissue and get our selves "more out of whack" or imbalanced.
A key to better golf is identifying and addressing these imbalances. There is great value in adding a qualified therapist to your training team. He or she can work with your golf instructor to help you to find and achieve the consistent results that you desire.
Is there really any value to hydration, nutrition and stretching?
Come back again and until then...
Have a Great Game!