Playing Golf with Arthritis

Arthritis affects millions of Americans and is most commonly associated with the elderly.However, arthritis can disrupt the lives of young and old alike. At the age of 39, Phil Mickelson was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. There were days he could barely get out of bed. Psoriatic arthritis can attack suddenly and cause significant pain. Over time, psoriatic arthritis can lead to permanent joint damage and disability. With the proper treatment, Mickelson was able to resume his daily routine on the golf course.   

What is Arthritis? 

Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints. It generally results from a breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage protects a joint so bones interact smoothly. In addition, cartilage absorbs the shock and pressure as the result of movement. Deteriorating cartilage forces bones to rub together resulting in pain, swelling and stiffness. There are currently over 100 different types of arthritis ranging in severity. Arthritis can lead to long-term chronic pain, disability and difficulty performing daily activities. 


Typical symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling and limited movement. Movement in the joint becomes restricted and the skin around the joint may experience redness. Warmth is sometimes experienced around the joint. Finally, stiffness is often accompanied from arthritis, particularly in the morning. 

Golf and Arthritis 

While millions are affected by arthritis, research suggests they can safely participate in regular exercise. In fact, even those who suffer from inflammatory arthritis can benefit from moderate intensity and weight bearing activity. Activities that combine strengthening and aerobic exercise can reduce symptoms, improve joint motion, enhance coordination and balance, control body weight and even help improve individual health and the risk at developing arthritis.    

Golf Equipment 

Players who suffer from arthritis should assess their golf equipment. Graphite shafts are a popular choice for those who suffer from arthritis. In addition to a lighter shaft, playing with a graphite shaft could help reduce vibrations in the arms and shoulders. Players who suffer from arthritis in their hands should try an oversize grip. The oversize grip is thicker than a regular grip and will not place as much pressure and tension on the hands and fingers while they wrap around a smaller grip. 

Treatments Before and After Golf 

Arthritis can be extremely painful and make normal activities difficult. Treatment can help reduce pain, improve function and prevent further joint damage. Take anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve arthritis pain. Consider placing heat or ice on affected areas to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness. Splints and orthotics can also help support joints. Others prefer water therapy and massage to help combat symptoms of arthritis. In addition, pay close attention to diet and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables which contain important vitamins your body needs.

Benefits of Golf 

The good news is arthritis should not end your golfing activities. Golf is extremely beneficial for strength, balance, coordination and a better range of motion. Remember to properly stretch and warm up before and after a round to reduce arthritis symptoms. Swing alterations, such as a shorter backswing or proper weight shift may promote less wear and tear on the body. If walking is a possibility, aerobic exercise improves the heart, lung and muscle function and benefits overall health, weight control, mood and sleep. Although arthritis can compromise daily activities, try to stay active and prolong any further damage to the joints.

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