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09 Tue

Back Pain and Tiger Woods

Back Pain and Tiger Woods

Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP, CGFI


I’ve been following the news reports about Tiger Woods and his back pain.  I recently read an article by another physiotherapist who wrote about his treatment and the media coverage that followed.  Interviews were done and second-guesses were made.  But one thing that I learned from this article is that pain and dysfunction are very complicated.

Pain and how much it affects you has nothing to do with how bad your MRI says you are.  And catastrophizing a minor issue will have profound effects on how intense your pain can be.  Also, microdiscectomy surgeries don’t always work, sometimes they don’t even address the problem at all.

With all the interviews done and the analysis that followed about what happened to Tiger Woods and why he has back pain despite having this back surgery, one could second guess his medical team till the cows come home.  But that would be a mistake.

Generally I try not to second guess another medical professional’s treatment rationale.  I want to stick to facts and evidence.  It’s the old Occam’s Razor Principle.  If it sounds like hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.  The same thing goes for what treatment Tiger Woods received.  I’m sure that his team is really intelligent.

But here’s some take home notes:

  • Not all back pain is spine related or indicative that spinal structures are damaged, it just means that they’re sensitized.
  • Back pain is a combination of genetic, pathoanatomical, physical, neurophysiological, lifestyle, cognitive and psychosocial factors; you can’t focus on only one factor.

For physiotherapists, return to pain-free function or playing sports pain-free is our goal.  This can be difficult when an athlete is depending on getting back to playing as soon as they can.  Returning to sport before you’re really ready and not addressing all the components of back pain can be a big mistake.  So make sure you’re really looking at all the factors and make the sacrifice to complete your rehab before going back too soon.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and


Image courtesy of pat138241 / 

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