Tiger Woods’ Back Spasms and The March to 18 Majors

February 10, 2017
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What’s the real story behind those back spasms that plague Tiger Woods?

Tiger Woods withdrew. Here we go again. Tiger’s in. Tiger’s out. It’s Tiger whiplash. We hardly know what to make of it except that time is working against The Big Cat.

After missing the cut at the Farmer’s Insurance Open, Woods flew to Dubai for an event and withdrew because of back spasms. As of today, his doctors have told him to rest for the next two weeks. As a result, Tiger will miss the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic.

He released the following statement on his web site:

“My doctors have advised me not to play the next two weeks, to continue my treatment and to let my back calm down,” Woods said. “This is not what I was hoping for or expecting. I am extremely disappointed to miss the Genesis Open, a tournament that benefits my foundation, and The Honda Classic, my hometown event. I would like to thank Genesis for their support, and I know we will have an outstanding week.”

Yes, Woods was feeling good enough to be able to practice and play a little bit of golf, but clearly, he’s not ready to play a lot of golf, like 18 holes, five days in a row, for two weeks in a row, plus routine practice and warm ups.

Related Story: Tiger: I just play away from the pain.

The only time we have seen Tiger Woods play four days in a row recently was at his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge. It’s a big leap from that to a regular PGA Tour schedule, particularly when Woods has been out most of the last two seasons.

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Back Spasms – The Medical Picture

So what’s with the back spasms? Where do they come from and how does a person get rid of them?

According to www.spineuniverse.com and Dr. Curtis W. Slipman, “…more often than not, the root cause of muscle spasm is a seemingly trivial injury to a structure within the lumbar spine.”

He also noted that a person who has had one or more episodes of back spasms is a candidate to get them again.

The strange thing is, according to Slipman, that muscle spasms can be caused by too much exercise rather than not enough exercise, but also by dehydration, electrolyte loss and/ or structural imbalances in the body. He says even one small movement that isn’t “normal” can trigger the spasm. In other words darn near anything could have caused it.

One key to preventing the spasms, he pointed out, is keeping opposing muscles strong and flexible. In this case, Tiger’s abdominals as well as his back muscles need to be strong.

What is the treatment protocol? The procedure to get rid of them is ice, then heat, anti-inflammatory drugs and possibly muscle relaxers. Then the rehabilitation process starts again to strengthen muscles and to make them flexible.

What Does Tiger Need to Do Next?

It’s a vicious cycle for Woods at this point.

Unfortunately the really big picture is that Woods tried to play a lot of golf in January and February get himself golf-ready for the Masters, the first major of the season. He is still on his march to 18 majors, and the first one of the year comes up every April. Woods has personal, internal pressure to be physically ready for the Masters because he’s not getting any younger. However, his musculature may be telling him it’s not quite ready for working as hard as he needs to in order to be fully prepared for golf.

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What he is feeling can perhaps only be felt by those who have had back surgery.

Completely by accident, earlier this week I spoke to a high level person in the golf industry, someone who works for a major publication and is involved in golf course architecture and course rankings. In the ordinary course of conversation, I asked him what he thought about Woods’ back. This man said that he, too, had back surgery, and his was for spinal stenosis, but it was not the micro surgery. In his, they cut through muscles to get to the back bone. He said it took him three years to fully recover, and said he wasn’t surprised at Woods’ back spasms. He added that he’d never had any pain in his life that was anything close to what he experienced with his back.

Woods had a microdiscectomy, a procedure designed to correct something inside the spinal column was pressing on a nerve. Muscles, so far as we know, were not cut.

“Tiger is doing well, and we expect him to make a full recovery,” Dr. Charles Rich said after the third procedure in October of 2015.

Next: Top 50 Golfers of the Tiger Woods Era

Well, Woods isn’t fully recovered yet. However, as any doctor will tell you, there is no guaranteed timeline for recovery from any surgery, and unfortunately time is not on Tiger Woods’ side.

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