By: Neil E. Wolkodoff, PhD
have likely played quite a bit of golf this time of year. Feeling recovered and
fresh for the next round is key to finishing the season well. While massage has
been touted as the incredible fix for almost everything when the kinks set in,
how does it fare for golf?
golf has some physical and mental results that could improve human function.
First, the golf swing requires a specific posture, and that can increase stress
on the back and core. The golf swing is a relatively slow take back one
direction, then an accelerated ball strikes the other direction. One must be
more powerful in the follow-through to express maximal distance via
acceleration. The time it takes for a golf round means the activity is not
maximal but repeated with precision over a four-hour-plus period. Muscles
become over-used, and the body gets out of balance from the golf swing
are going to have general fatigue and tight muscles in spots. Part of that
result is the golf stance; another factor is the dynamics of the golf swing.
And even if a golfer is following a good physical protocol, there are times a
difficult round or consecutive rounds push the body over the edge.
is one avenue to restoring the body to a symmetrical, tension-free state.
Supporting research on the benefits of massage is moderate at best. It works
better for repetitive movement activities like golf or cycling versus very
strenuous sports like professional basketball.
there are various massage forms, and training and application differ by the
practitioner, it is difficult to evaluate the research and even personal
experience. While a small amount of research has attempted to quantify and
standardize practices, that has likely fallen short when assessing the
scientific rigor of a particular treatment or technique. In personal terms, it
may take two or three different therapists to find one that can make the
application specific to your needs.
golf is a sub-maximal, repetitive activity, the evidence is good that massage
will likely positively restore certain functions. For example, the hamstrings
or back of the upper leg, the shoulders, and the back are all used repetitively
in the golf swing. Massage is likely to decrease tension in these areas.
forgotten benefit of massage is that you are in the moment during the massage.
As a muscle group is worked, it is difficult to think about past rounds or the
day's stress. Runners often experience temporary cognitive dissociation or
having the physical aspects of the run and path literally take them away from
the thoughts and cares of daily life. This has been poorly studied in massage;
however, logic would conclude that golfers will simply lower their general
tension or stress level by focusing on the massage in progress. The body-mind
connection simply gets the golfer to relax, which is a positive for golf
There are seven major
types of massage. Not all have the same approach or benefits for golf. A good
massage therapist will have training and proficiency in all forms and can mix
and tweak a routine for specific results. In general, Swedish massage is
best for stress reduction.
Deep tissue techniques are good after repeated rounds, like a tournament
where the muscular system has been repeatedly stressed. As deep tissue is
rigorous, it is best to perform this after golf rounds, then rest that day and
maybe another and resume golf the day after. This allows any tissue disturbance
to heal. If flexibility after repeated golf is an issue, a myofascial
release protocol will increase movement in the muscle layer below the
skin. Certain muscle groups, like the back of the lower leg may benefit
from using a foam roller device for this purpose. Using
this technique will require a bit of floor space and practice.
you jump into a massage, you must identify the things that are not optimal so
the therapist can focus on your needs. You can look for a certified therapist
using the American Massage Therapy
Association search tool.
time for a traditional massage can be an issue for golfers considering the time
it takes to practice and play during a week. The time crunch answer is a
massage chair at home. The key consideration with a massage chair is both time
getting to a facility and the fact most massage chair programs are 15 minutes.
have radically improved over the last 20 years, and their functions have
exponentially increased. For example, upper-tier chairs measure the
individual's back and neck tension and adjust the massage parameters
now have a variety of programs that work head to toe and allow you to dial up
or down specific areas like the lower leg, forearms, shoulders, and just about
every muscle group. Mechanical chairs are like other devices regarding a
price/benefit relationship. A $3K chair will provide a good
basic massage, with a $6K chair having roughly three times as much versatility
and recovery punch. Once you get to $12K and above, expect the chair to
do amazing things and be light years ahead of the lesser-priced options and
what was available even five years ago. It is best to try chairs at a specialized store where they sport a
variety of options.
data collection of users and athletes concerning recovery goals, some chair
companies have designed specific chairs around restoring
One should take off their shoes, wear loose clothing and try the options to get
a solid evaluation of the chair in question. Then what you need and want
becomes obvious. Another overlooked benefit of a massage chair is you can
perform a 15-minute session before heading to the course, likely decreasing
your tension and increasing flexibility.
factor to consider about massage and golf is the interaction with your physical
training program. The more the body is in balance, the less likely a round of
golf will put you so out of whack you are using a scooter at the grocery store.
A good start for golfers in-season is ensuring both sides of the body train
equally. For example, if you perform three sets of a chest press exercise,
perform three sets of a rowing exercise. This will go a long way in keeping
golf optimal and not a debilitating experience. You still might benefit from
massage, yet the balanced body is less prone to the unequal stresses of golf.
relish a good massage, but time is my issue. I have a massage chair at home.
Once or twice per week with a selected program is the recovery pathway that
suits my needs. Like most golfers, I have more time and can opt for a
traditional massage when traveling.
Neil E. Wolkodoff, PhD, performs research on golf
and sports, and provides programs to improve human performance and health. He
has worked successfully with PGA, collegiate and junior golfers over the last
25 years. Neil is the Medical Program Director for the Colorado Center for
Health & Sports Science.