Golf is a sport that attracts players of all ages, and thus presents many unique challenges to the athlete across his lifespan. Proper training and practice of the golf swing can lead to dramatically improved power, distance on your shot, mobility, and help golfers resist injury, says Patrick Ward, massage professional and athletic development coach in Tempe, Arizona. Massage therapy can keep golfers limber and healthy.
Massage has been practiced for thousands of years; today's society sees it as a "relaxing" or "therapeutic" modality, but it can also play a role in enhancing athletic and other physical performance. Massage can break down adhesions and scar tissues, which ultimately may lead to better freedom of movement --- and thus better swing mechanics for golfers.
MASSAGE FOR MOBILITY
Golf requires that the body have mobility in the right places to reduce the risk of injury. Massage therapy for the golfer should focus on the hips and the thoracic spine, which are crucial to the movement of the swing and to providing the strength required to hit the ball effectively. Ward suggests that, before you begin a training session, you apply massage to key areas of the body, in the form of either hands-on massage or through the use of tools like foam rolls and tennis balls.
KEY AREA: HIP ROTATORS
Golf requires a high level of rotation through the hips, but because so much of our modern lives involve sitting at computers and in vehicles, the hip rotators often become "stuck" and in need of massage. Try the tennis ball figure-four. Sit on the floor with a tennis ball directly to the right of your hip. Lift yourself up, and bring your right hip down upon the ball as if you were putting it into your back pocket. Cross your right leg over left and rotate in small circles until you locate a tender point. Hold pressure on the tender point for up to 30 seconds. When done correctly, the severity of the discomfort will fall rapidly. Repeat on the other hip.
KEY AREA: HIP FLEXORS
The golf stance can often lead to excessive tightness in the hip flexors, the muscles along the front of your thigh and abdomen. Ward suggests using either hands-on massage from a skilled therapist or the foam roll, a self-massage tool. Place a foam roller on the floor, and then lie face-down with the roller under your thigh, about an inch above your knee. Push your body slowly backward, moving the foam roll closer to your hip bones. One pass should take at least 10 seconds. If you locate a tender point, maintain steady pressure upon the point until the tenderness dissipates. Repeat this massage on both thighs for about 60 seconds.
KEY AREA: THORACIC SPINE
The middle portion of your back, called the thoracic spine, plays an integral role in the golf swing. Many swing errors put too much tension on the muscles along the spine; release this tension to improve your swing's effectiveness. Lie on your with a foam roll positioned underneath, touching you back about an inch above belly-button height. Cross your arms over your chest and move so the foam rolls massages up your back and between your shoulder blades. Stop on tender points until the discomfort lessens. Do up to 60 seconds of rolling before you play golf.