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Tiger Woods: A Chronic Back Pain Story

Woods elated after winning The Masters in 2o19 despite having had surgery only 2 years prior.

Woods elated after winning The Masters in 2o19 despite having had surgery only 2 years prior.

In April 2017, Woods announced he had undergone the fourth operation on his back in a little more than two years. Back spasms with pain shooting through his leg had made his life misery; unable to play golf, play with his kids or even sit a restaurant table. He and his medical team were unsure whether he would play high-level golf again. The main aim of the surgery, he said, was to recapture “a normal life” while giving him a chance to return to competitive golf and live “without the pain I have been battling so long.”

This made Woods’s victory last year at The Masters one of sports most extraordinary achievements.  A victory testament to his determination, durability and ultimately the success of his last surgery.


But what was cause of his chronic back pain..?

The anatomical structures that caused Wood’s chronic pain were the intervertebral discs in his lumbar spine. A disc is a gel-like substance that wedges between vertebra and acts like a shock absorber.

Often the cause of dysfunction to a disc is multifactorial and not a singular issue, and specialists agree that this was also the case for Tiger Woods. The following have been noted as contributory factors in his case:

  1. Repetitive biomechanical load induced on Woods’ spine through playing golf. We know that the golf swing exerts huge forces through the lumbar spine. For those that know golf, Tiger Woods’ powerful swing only exacerbated this mechanical load.
  2.  A chronic history of knee injuries is a likely a contributor to problems with the spine. Dr. Alpesh Patel, chief of orthopedic spine surgery at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago said. “Once their [Golfers] mechanics are off, then we’ll see back injuries secondarily. So, it’s not unlikely that in Woods’ story we saw a chain link between one and the other.”
  3. Genetics are responsible for our anatomical structure and determine to an extent the robustness of our joints. Woods has a history of cartilaginous pathology in other joints and so it is reasonable to assume his lumbar discs were perhaps already vulnerable to dysfunction.

What can we learn from Tiger’s case?

Ultimately, back pain can be beaten and not only that, one can even go on and further ones achievements. Despite Woods’ ‘fix’ was in time obtained through surgery; most people make full recoveries through conservative measures and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Additionally, the aetiology of chronic back pain should be thought of as a series of different causes not just one cause. It is very rare for one singular issue to be the sole cause of chronic back pain, and patients need to understand that our backs are sensitive to many different factors. As such, our genetics, our daily routines and our history of previous injuries are all factors that need to be considered. Once we can understand these underlying contributory factors, it can help both practitioners and the patient to deal with the complaint.


Are you suffering from chronic pain?

Our Team at The Wellness Centre (Castle Quay) help patients suffering with chronic pain on a regular basis. Our goal is to firstly eradicate the pain and then get the patient back doing what they love as soon as possible. In some rarer cases, the patient may require medical or other conservatory co-management. Our  team is fully trained to recognize these instances and when applicable will refer the patient on.

Should you need our expect help in beating your chronic back pain, please Click Here to Contact Us or call us today on 633060 to arrange an appointment.

D.C. Hadley-James Brown – Chiropractor

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