Back pain affects 80% of the population at some point in their life. Tiger Woods has joined the rest of us normal people and now has back pain. Unfortunately, Tiger needs his back to be working correctly to in order to play golf at the highest level. He withdrew from a tournament last weekend, and this past tournament he struggled on Sunday after re-injuring his back. Woods spoke about the pain after the tournament.
“It is back spasms, so we’ve done all the protocols and it’s just a matter of keeping everything aligned so I don’t go into that,” said Woods. “If I feel good, I can actually make a pretty decent swing. You saw it (Saturday). I actually can make some good swings and shoot a good score, but if I’m feeling like this, it’s a little tough. It’s the same thing … it flares up. It’s just a matter of keeping it calm, and we had a quick turnaround from last week. … It will be nice to take this week off and get everything ready for Bay Hill.”
Most likely, Tiger strained some muscles, or possibly irritated a disc or joints in the low back. An irritated back will develop muscle spasms, and these spasms are painful and reduce the ability to move. All of us who have strained our back and have had this problem know how hard it is to move. Walking is difficult, and bending, lifting, and twisting is even harder. Add in the fact that he has to walk the length of the course and swing a golf club – it’s no wonder he had troubles.
Tiger Woods is likely getting the most aggressive treatment to resolve the low back strain causing muscle spasms. Treatment choices are numerous, but most likely include medications that reduce muscle spasms and aggressively influence healing. Likely he is receiving prednisone, a very powerful anti-inflammatory medication that may facilitate more rapid healing. Additionally, medications for muscle spasms and traditional anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen or naproxen may be used. Intense physical therapy is also likely being used to improve movement and decrease the muscle spasms.
Professional golf requires Tiger Woods to be in perfect physical and mental shape to hit the ball adequately. Unless he is at 100%, it is unlikely that he can play at a competitive level. He needs to be mentally alert to judge all variables to make any shot and to concentrate, and many of the medications for spasms have some decrease in mental awareness. Physically, any muscle spasms in his back will change his swing slightly and prevent him from making the shot he wants.
Muscle strains and sprains in the back can resolve quickly if treated correctly and aggressively. Unfortunately, many times it takes a lot of work to control back spasms. Hopefully, Tiger will be lucky and he will heal quickly. He needs to be 100%, especially with The Masters looming next month. Golf’s first major is Tiger’s biggest priority at this point, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he withdrew or skipped other tournaments leading up to The Master in order to put his back in the best possible shape in his quest for another green jacket.
Related source: USA Today
Thomas Cohn, MD
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