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Oh, my aching shoulders; Stretches to help golfers with upper back pain

Katherine RobertsBy Katherine Roberts,

Over the years, I have been flooded with health and fitness questions from golfers of all ages and physical challenges. In this segment, I share with you a common concern of many golfers.

Here is a recent question from a reader:

"I am a 56-year-old man, with compromised flexibility. Other than my weekend golf game, my activity level has become sedentary. I spend hours sitting on my computer and have become very inflexible in my shoulders and upper back. My rounded shoulders are affecting my posture (making me look older than my age), causing discomfort and neck pain, and presenting numerous challenges in my golf swing. Any suggestions?"

- Stiff in Dallas

Because so many golfers experience pain in the lumbar spine, many fitness professionals have a tendency to focus only on this area. As a yoga teacher, I don't focus on just one area of a student's body. I take the entire structure into account. Often when one part of the body is compromised, the entire body is affected. Flexibility training for the upper back or thoracic region will affect flexibility of the lower back as well. The upper back is important for maintaining a correct spine angle and for supporting the head in the proper position.

The following exercises will create more turn in your swing, support better posture in your stance and give you a greater sense of strength in the upper body.

Cat/cow pose

While on all fours, place your hands directly under your shoulders, spreading your fingers as wide apart as possible. Inhale while drawing the navel toward your spine and pressing the spine to the ceiling, allowing your neck to completely relax. Exhale while pressing your spine toward the floor, rolling the shoulders away from your ears and lifting your head slightly. Press the thoracic spine toward the floor. Repeat 10 times.

Twisting tabletop

Begin on all fours, with your hands directly under your shoulders. Gently slide your left arm under your right, bringing your shoulder to the floor. Be gentle: You should not have any discomfort in your neck. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Switch sides.

Arms behind your back with strap stretch

Place a strap or towel in your right hand. Lift your arm with your palm facing you, then allow your forearm to fall behind your back. Place your left hand on your right elbow. Press down and hold for five breaths. Then reach around your back, grabbing onto the strap. Lift up while looking toward the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.

Chest opener - Optional forward fold

Place your feet 4 feet apart, bend your knees and draw your navel toward your spine. Reach behind you while either clasping hands together or using a towel to get the hands as close together as possible. Roll your shoulders open and hold for five to 10 breaths. For a deeper stretch, begin folding forward and allow your arms to fall over your head. Hold for five breaths.

Katherine Roberts and her highly successful Yoga for Golfers program, five instructional videos/DVD and, book have been featured in USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Golf Magazine, Self Magazine, Golf for Women, Athlon Golf, Affluent Golfer Magazine and numerous other media. She is a member of Golf Magazine's fitness panel. Katherine can often be seen on The Golf Channel.

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