Updated: Jan 14, 2021
Recently, I saw a bumper sticker that read: “A bad day at golf is better than a good day at work.” Now, I love what I do, but that made me smile. When it comes to challenging and rewarding hobbies, golf is near the top of the list for a lot of us. Those of us who enjoy the game know what it’s like to be out on the course on a picture-perfect day when you just can’t seem to find the green, much less the cup.
That’s the beauty and the agony of golf. You bring your game up to a certain point, but consistency is elusive. Age is another factor that impacts our game. The joints just don’t seem to function as smoothly as they once did. For many people, joint pain and stiffness becomes a “normal” part of the game they love. Maybe something like this has happened to you:
You approach the tee box, place your ball and raise your club to drive it straight down the fairway. Then, in the middle of your swing, a searing pain shoots from your hip up your back and down to your knees. The pain is so intense it freezes your follow-through, sending the ball careening into the woods.
You limp back to the cart, frustrated about losing a stroke, but more concerned about why your hip is hurting so bad. You had been noticing occasional stiffness in recent weeks, as well as a little bit of an ache getting out of bed in the morning, but nothing like this. What’s going on?
How Golf Contributes to Hip Pain
Many people first experience this kind of mysterious hip pain or weakness during physical activity, like golf, so they naturally assume they injured themselves during the game. While that’s definitely possible, more often than not, your swing is revealing a medical issue, rather than causing it.
Here’s why that is…
The hip is a strong and sturdy ball-and-socket synovial joint formed where the femur meets the bones of the pelvis. The head of the femur is protected by a slick layer of articular cartilage that allows the leg bone to move in the joint without causing pain. Several ligaments surround the hip, and hip muscles work with the thigh and back to maintain stability and manage weight.
It takes a lot of force to create immediate trauma to the hip joint. A lot more force than you exert in the average golf swing. However, frequent repetition of that same type of force can do some serious damage.
Over time and with use, the layer of cartilage protecting the femur is worn down, and the connective tissue can be strained or weakened. During a golf swing, the hip is expected to pivot, twist and provide power for your shots, which requires repeated adduction and extension to maintain strength and control through the swing. While this often results in lower back pain and core strain, the stress on the hip joint also adds up.
Conditions that Cause Hip Pain
That’s not to say all hip pain is golf-related. There are many contributing factors that cause hip pain and stiffness. Age, sedentary work, poor posture, manual labor, genetics, muscle weakness, obesity, lack of exercise, repetitive stress, and, yes, bad form during your golf swing, can all be contributing factors.
Anything that increases the stress on the joint or decreases the strength of the joint can contribute to injury or pain.
Even if you’re in reasonably good shape, and the form of your swing is as pretty as Fred Couples’ or Tom Watson’s swing, the repetitive motion of the golf swing can contribute to several different degenerative joint diseases and other painful medical conditions, including:
Because these conditions build up over time, many people do not even notice symptoms early on. In some cases, the degenerative condition may have been at work for up to a decade, slowly wearing away cartilage, causing swelling, wear on spinal discs and bone spurs in the joint. By the time you feel consistent or chronic pain or weakness, the condition may be relatively advanced.
Symptoms of Degenerative Hip Disease or Disorder
Any combination of the following could be an indicator of progressive joint disease and is a good reason to see your doctor for a confirming diagnosis:
Pain, tenderness, swelling or weakness in or around the joint
Radiating pain, tingling or numbness in the back, buttocks or legs
Joint pain or stiffness, especially getting up in the morning or after physical activity
Joint pain or stiffness when standing up from a chair or the couch
A popping or crunching sound in the joint
Difficulty with daily activities like picking something up off the floor, tying your shoes or putting on socks
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially after physical activity, it’s a good idea to see your doctor and determine if it’s just muscle fatigue, minor joint stress, or if there could be a more serious underlying cause.
Degenerative hip diseases, like Osteoarthritis, are often diagnosed using a combination of a thorough physical examination and medical diagnostic testing using x-rays or MRIs. The goal here is to determine the root cause of the symptoms, so we can develop the most effective treatment plan.
Treating Hip Pain and Joint Stiffness
For minor or occasional aches and pains, your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter pain medications (acetaminophen) or anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen). They may also suggest resting the joint, alternating hot and cold compresses, light stretching or low-impact exercises, and, if necessary, weight loss.
Dietary changes may also help. Certain foods promote joint health and reduce inflammation, while other foods contribute to inflammation and arthritis. Alcohol and tobacco use may also contribute to some forms of joint disease. Cutting down on fried foods, processed foods and high amounts of sugar has been shown to improve joint health.
One of the most important things you can do for joint health is to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water helps keeps the cartilage lubricated, protecting the joints and keeping bones healthy.
Some foods that contribute to joint health include: salmon, oatmeal, leafy greens, walnuts, almonds, berries with high antioxidant levels, red peppers and citrus, because Vitamin C assists in the production of collagen, which helps your cartilage and connective tissue stay healthy.
Medical Treatment for Advanced Hip Pain
These ‘at-home’ treatments will not always relieve your hip pain or other symptoms of joint disease. In these cases, we may recommend Epidural Steroid Injections to relieve your joint pain and inflammation.
In extreme cases of chronic hip pain or advanced loss of joint function, some doctors may recommend surgery. In fact, you may have been told you “require” surgery to “fix” your joint. You may have even read news articles about famous golfers such as Jack Nicklaus or Davis Love who have undergone hip replacement surgery. Sometimes, these stories give people the idea that hip replacement surgery is very common and relatively simple.
While it’s true that an increasing number of joint replacement surgeries are being done, it’s nothing to take lightly. Hip replacement surgery is a highly-invasive procedure with serious risks both during and after the procedure.
Fortunately, highly-invasive surgery is not your only option for long-term relief of hip pain, stiffness and weakness.
Platelet Rich Plasma and S Cell Treatment are two minimally-invasive treatments that heal and repair the affected joint, using your body’s own regenerative abilities to repair and replace damaged cells with new, healthy cells, including joint cartilage.
The majority of patients who have received SCT – Regenerative Medicine treatment specifically targeted at
improving joint function and reducing joint pain have reported outstanding results, including significant improvement in function as well as a marked decrease in pain.
To learn more about how these proven, non-surgical treatments can relieve your hip pain, inflammation and other symptoms. Click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Skaliy today.
How hip pain hurts your golf game
Golf is a beautiful game, but it can sure take a toll on your joints. While the pain and stiffness you feel after a round may just be sore muscles, these symptoms could indicate progressive joint degeneration that will only get worse with time. In this article, Dr. Skaliy explains how golf and other repetitive motion activities can damage your hips, and offers solutions that will reduce pain and inflammation, and can even repair wear and tear in your joints.