Pain Relievers

June 07, 2019

Photo by David Plunkert

Pulls, tears, bruises, inflammation—just some of the wonderful side effects of loving a sport so much that you can't walk away from that second bucket of range balls or an emergency nine after a day of 36 holes. That's OK, we've got your back. And your shoulders, knees, hips and neck. Here's a guide to potential treatments for damage to the body's soft tissue. Everything from self-massage to “Star Wars”-like laser blasts. This information comes from research by Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson, a physical therapist and former trainer on the PGA Tour. Help is on the way.


Extreme cold applied to the skin can slow inflammation and heat can increase blood flow, which may accelerate healing. Both reduce pain/achiness.

Note No research has shown ice to be effective in reducing swelling from bruises, etc. Heat might make a swollen area temporarily worse. Either can burn if used without proper skin protection for too long—e.g., more than 15 minutes.


Pressure is applied to the problem area in the hopes of increasing blood flow and range of motion and countering the effects of microtears to muscle, fascia, etc. It's a convenient, cheap and effective technique for treating soreness and getting warmed up for golf.

Note Pressure applied directly to a spot where you feel pain can aggravate things, and some injuries are too deep within the body for massage to be effective. You might need a therapist to treat hard-to-reach areas.


Long, thin needles pierce the skin and the muscle to release painful myofascial trigger points. Pain reduction and improvement in range of motion can come rapidly after a treatment. Great for issues with the deeper muscles of the spine that are often inflamed by golf swings, including the quadratus lumborum and iliocostalis.

Note Requires a skilled professional for application and generally isn't used as a stand-alone treatment. Insurance might not cover the application. Soreness and bruising can occur where the needles enter the skin.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium are effective in relieving inflammation, particularly for minor issues. It doesn't get any easier for golfers than to pop a pill to combat pain, and even prescription-strength NSAIDs are fairly inexpensive.

Note The longer you use them, the greater their potential to damage the kidneys and gastrointestinal components. They also have caused cardiovascular incidents (heart failure, strokes).

We've got your back. And shoulders, knees . . .


These medications are effective at reducing pain in the short term when administered correctly and can relieve common issues from playing golf such as delayed onset muscle soreness. They're cheap and easy to use.

Note They're not effective at reducing inflammation, and they can damage the liver if used at the same time as alcohol. Users also have reported stomach issues and allergic reactions.


Whether administered by pill or needle, steroids offer speedy and strong relief to debilitating pain—the kind where even thinking about a golf swing hurts.

Note Requires a physician to administer if it's an injection, or a prescription if it's a pill. Neither is cheap. It might lead to tendon ruptures if treatments are often repeated. Some have reported soreness for a day or two in the injected area.


Short bursts of light (five to 10 minutes) to an injured area have been shown to reduce tendon inflammation like golfer's elbow. The treatments are quick and painless.

Note It's generally not used as a stand-alone treatment, and insurance typically does not cover it. Lasers stronger than class 3 can cause tissue damage or burn skin if not used properly.


Platelets are extracted from drawn blood and then injected back into the body at a spot where injury/acute pain has occurred. It has been very effective on joint injuries and arthritis. For golfers, it's a treatment to consider for plantar fasciitis (foot) and elbow tendinitis.

Note Not typically used as a treatment for muscle/tissue soreness. Although many studies on its efficacy have been done, there is still skepticism about its ability to help overcome issues. It's also expensive ($500 to $2,000 per injection) and usually not covered by insurance.