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An Ohio licensed Physical Therapist, TPI Certified Golf Fitness Instructor and K-vest Level one certified instructor providing simple exercises for golfers that empower them to train without pain.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Mystery

The mystery of Myofascial pain - Part 2.

Perhaps there are some of you who are trying out new clubs, new adjustments to your golf address and/or golf swing. Perhaps you are anticipating or just returning from a golf vacation to tide you over until spring. 

With new golf equipment and modifications to your swing, you may also be experiencing new frontiers in pain and/or stiffness. You may have discovered restrictions of movement that are preventing you from making the changes that you would like.
Be careful to preen yourself a bit.  
Whaaaa...? Well, watch the care that waterfowl take in preparing their feathers for flight. Each feather needs to be properly aligned and oiled to take full advantage of its aerodynamic design. (Where did they learn that behavior anyway?) If the feathers are not properly 'feathered' then flight may require greater effort and less stability.

Last issue we talked a little about fascia as it relates to movement and how it is both dynamically flexible and still exceptionally resilient. (Though it is generally not nearly as exceptional as when we were in our twenties)

What are the properties that make it so and what does it have to do with feathers, let alone golfing?

At the risk of oversimplification, the building blocks of fascia are molecules bonded together in such a way that look very much like a feather. When this structure is healthy and hydrated the fins of the feather as it were are all fanned out and water infiltrates each fin. 

Water is non compressible so this gives fascia its fullness and resilience. When the body is active and flexible the structural integrity of fascia and allows for an even distribution of forces during activity. 

It stands to reason then that when there is poor hydration, fascial resiliency is diminished. Over time, poor nutrition, poor hydration, loss of flexibility, injury and inflammation all work to diminish the resiliency of fascia. Instead of the feathers fanning out, they become stuck together and more viscous rather than fluid.

Diminished integrity of fascia results in adhesions and scarring that interrupt the smooth distribution of forces as we move and stretch. We interpret this as "stiffness", "burning or stabbing pain" and sometimes even numbness and tingling. 

Playing a round of golf through restricted fascia takes a lot of the fun out of the game.
So, what can be done about it? Can it be reversed? To a surprising degree, it can.  The easiest change to make is gradually increase your water intake as well as fruits and vegetables. Most physical therapists and massage therapists are trained in some form of myofascial release that targets restricted areas and allows the fascia to rehydrate and improve its overall integrity.

Trying to force yourself to stretch through areas of adhesion will often result in more pain, inflammation and increased scarring. However, proper stretching
that isolates the affected areas and takes advantage of the properties of fascia will enable the average golfer to achieve surprising results of increased power and decreased pain.

You see, the non - compressible nature of fascia means that sudden movements, such as bouncing or forced overstretching will pass forces to already weakened areas. (In fact, fascia is shown to withstand up to 2000 lbs per sq inch under sudden stretch conditions.) However, when a slow sustained stretch is applied, fascia can realign itself along the lines of force applied to it.
Changing the channel.

Often after a traumatic injury, surgery or chemotherapy, blockages occur in the normal channels of lymphatic drainage that exist throughout the fascial system. Here is where certified lymphadema specialists
are essential to reroute and open new lymphatic channels. This promotes the smooth transfer of forces as we move through our golf swing and daily activities.

So, the advantage of having trained eyes and hands identify areas of restriction and then teach you how to properly apply stretches in ways that will benefit your golf swing is tremendous. Working alongside a golf professional to identify swing flaws and a therapist specializing in golf training provide the key that nearly all of the professionals use
to give them an advantage.

For the average golfer however, the goal is not just to lower scores, but to continue to enjoy the game of golf and play it pain free for many years.

I trust that these insights will be applied to your benefit. Ask your golf professional to help you identify trained therapists and fitness programs that will put the fun back into your game.
Have a great game!

Steve McMurray MPT, CGFI (aka Mr Stiv)

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