Golf rates as one of the safer sports to practice, but it's not without its risks. The repetition of the swing can lead to overuse injuries, and the pivotal role of the wrist in that action puts this joint at increased danger of damage. Alongside tendonitis and a broken hamate (wrist bone), carpal tunnel syndrome is a common golfing injury. And with the NHS estimating that around 5% of women in the UK will suffer from this characteristic numbness and pain in the hand at some time in their lives, it can be a big concern to female golfers.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow channel of nerves and muscles running from the base of the wrist to the palm. It sends impulses to the hand from the brain, which allows it to move and feel. When the tendons or muscles in the wrist and hand become inflamed it can restrict this passageway, compressing the median nerve, which is the main nerve in the carpal tunnel that coordinates the movement of the fingers.
When the median nerve is compressed it can result in pain, a burning sensation, numbness and tingling. Normal hand movements may be restricted, it may be difficult to grip objects and the hand will feel much weaker.
Why is it a concern to female golfers?
Almost twice as many women as men develop carpal tunnel syndrome. This is because generally the carpal tunnel is smaller in women, making it more susceptible to becoming restricted. It's a common injury for golfers because the wrist is used so much during the game. Playing a lot, or playing with an incorrect technique allowing the wrist to move too much during the swing, can quickly lead to inflammation (tendonitis) and if you ever miss the ball and end up hitting the ground or another object, that can cause a direct trauma injury. The resulting swelling can then place pressure on the median nerve, resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome.
Treating and preventing injuries
Check you are using the right clubs for your size and level, and get professional coaching to ensure your wrists move correctly during your swing and to help you to adopt a swing less likely to hit the ground.
If you're already suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery can relieve the symptoms immediately. If you need medical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome your consultant can advise you on the best options available.
But there are also simple exercises you can practise to limit your risk of developing this debilitating condition. A qualified physiotherapist can advise you on safe stretching exercises designed to improve the strength and flexibility of your wrist and hands to help prevent injury, as well as other therapies available.
Try these exercises to help you to build strength and flexibility in your wrists:
- Hold arms out in front of you, parallel to the ground.
- Extend and stretch both wrists and fingers out with your wrists bent upward so your fingers are parallel to your body, pointing at the ceiling. Hold for a count of five.
- Straighten both wrists and relax your fingers.
- Still holding your arms out, make a tight fist with both hands, palm down.
- Then bend both wrists down while keeping the fist. Hold for a count of five.
- Relax wrists and straighten fingers for five counts.
- Repeat the whole exercise from the start ten times.
- Let your arms hang loose by your side and shake them out.
- Press your palms together in a flat- handed prayer position.
- Turn your wrists so that your fingers are pointing down at the floor.
- Take a deep breath as you hold this stretch for several seconds.
- As you gently increase the pressure of your palms against each other you'll feel the stretch in your wrists.
- Hold your arm and hand out, palm facing away from you.
- Use your other hand to pull your fingers backwards toward your body.
- Repeat with the other hand.
Don't let your wrists let you down
Although golf is a relatively safe sport, take care to look after your wrists. If you're already experiencing wrist pain always seek medical advice before starting any new exercise. BMI Healthcare's physiotherapists are here to help you continue enjoying your game now and for the future.
To book your consultation call us on 0800 404 6660.