"Uhh..well..not so good. My left shoulder hurts every time I swing a little bit too hard and really hurts when I hit the ball but I'm on a new anti-inflammatory that seems to be helping some," replied my friend.
"Yeah? Well, you know, we could help you with that shoulder. We could look at your arm and tell you how much strength you have and how much you need to play." I said.
"I know. I know. But, the meds are ok and I just don't have the time to mess with it right now. I'll just swing easy for a while. Besides, I know those muscle tests - you know 'good, fair, poor' - those aren't helpful really at all, " my friend explained.
"Agreed. But, that's not how we test your strength," I said as he started walking away.
About eighteen months later, we had nearly the same discussion.
So much for the meds.
And, he's a physician. And, he knows about shoulders. He operates on them.
Too bad for him because he could solve his shoulder pain and play without worrying. But, he needs to know two things. Here's the first one:
What is his shoulder strength?
To play golf, you need to generate 14 lbs. of pain-free force, about 40% of normal strength, up to 100 times in a typical 18 hole round (of course, the lower your score the fewer swings you take). Normal strength for males is about 35 lbs (this will be a little lower in males over the age of 60). So, chances are, that my friend's shoulder strength was less than 14 lbs. since swinging the club and hitting the ball both hurt. Nearly all musculoskeletal symptoms are the result of a physical demand that is greater than the physical capacity. If you need to generate 14 lbs. of force and can generate 10lbs., there's a good chance that before very long, your shoulder will hurt. If my friend had discovered that his shoulder strength was, say, 10 lbs (which by the way is the typical top end force production for someone with shoulder pain), he would at least understand why his shoulder hurt and have some idea of how much stronger he needs to be.
This test is very easy to perform, is non-invasive and takes less than one minute. It will tell you exactly how much more strength you need to play safely and pain-free.
Most people assume that if they don't hurt, all is well. But, medications can't change your strength. So, you may feel better after the anti-inflammatory (Motrin, Aleve, etc.), but if your shoulder strength is still too low, you'll end up with a sore shoulder all over again.
Adequate shoulder strength is one of the keys to playing golf without worrying about hurting yourself. There's one more thing to know and I'll tell you about it next week.