Make Pain a Thing of the Past – Tiger Woods – Physician Partners of America

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Common Golfer Pain May be Unrelated to Discectomy and Fusion

Legendary golfer Tiger Woods’ neck pain is preventing him from this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.

He tweeted Monday “Unfortunately due to a neck strain that I’ve had for a few weeks, I’m forced to withdraw from the API. I’ve been receiving treatment, but it hasn’t improved enough to play.”

Woods, ranked 12th in the world, underwent four back procedures, including an anterior lumbar interbody fusion, and discectomy. He hasn’t missed a tournament – until now.

“Strain of the neck or cervical spine is a common musculoskeletal injury in the sports medicine world,” says Physician Partners of America pain management specialist Chad Gorman, M.D. “The patient can irritate or strain the muscles of the cervical spine causing tightness, limited range of motion and significant pain. For a professional athlete who uses precision and accuracy with his sport, having to perform while also dealing with significant neck pain can significantly hinder your performance.”

Occasionally, spinal fusions  can impact other parts of the spine in certain patients. In other patients, neck strain can be unrelated. It appears that is the case with Tiger Woods‘ neck pain: his fusion occurred in the lumbar, or lower, spine, and it is unlikely it impacted his neck.

Fortunately, in many cases, neck pain is easily treatable.

“Neck strains can be treated with oral anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, ice, massage and more advanced treatments like laser TENS units,” says Dr. Gorman, who practices in New Port Richey, Fla. and is a golfer himself.

According to, Woods competed on the PGA Tour 18 times last year, winning the Tour Championship for his 80th PGA Tour title. In addition, he played in the Ryder Cup as well as December’s Hero World Challenge. He has played three times so far this year without injury issues.

An anterior lumbar interbody fusion is performed in a minimally invasive way by Physician Partners of America spine surgeons and other specialists. It uses small incisions at the front of the body – the “anterior” – so that the large muscles of the back are not affected.

While Woods is not out of the woods yet, he reports the fusion and disc replacement worked. He tweeted, “My lower back is fine, and I have no long-term concerns, and I hope to be ready for the Players.”

Woods, ranked 12th in the world, played a full schedule last year for the first time since 2015, which came after the first of what would turn out to be four back procedures. He contended at the last two majors, tying for sixth at The Open and finishing second at the PGA Championship.

It is uncertain whether Tiger Woods’ neck pain will sideline him from the Valspar Championship March 21-14, WGC-Dell Match Play Championship March 27 – March 31, and the Masters, which begins April 11.

Physician Partners of America treats neck and spine pain with a variety of modalities, from conservative to minimally invasive spine procedures. Find a PPOA specialist in Florida or Dallas-Fort Worth here.

He’s had four procedures in four years

Golf legend Tiger Woods’ back surgery saga has gained as much attention as his game and his personal life. His recent PGA Tour Championship performance marks his 80th win. It’s a stunning comeback after a five-year hiatus – and even more significant because he has undergone four operations for chronic pain.

Woods has suffered from pain in his lower back, known as the lumbar spine, and had discectomy surgery to relieve a pinched nerve in 2014. A discectomy removes a small piece of a vertebral disc that is pressing against pain-causing nerves.  This surgery does not affect range of movement.

One year later, he had to withdraw from the Wyndham Championship and undergo a second procedure to decompress another pinched nerve. One month after that, he has a third surgery to relieve pain from the second operation.

The golfer brushed it off as an occupational hazard. “It’s one of those things that had to be done,” he recently told People magazine.

Does Golf Cause Back Problems?

What is it about the game of golf that triggers back pain? Physician Partners of America pain management specialist Dr. Chad Gorman has a background in sports medicine and is a golfer himself.

“While golf is a beautiful sport that requires precision and eye coordination, strength, endurance and focus, there are many common injuries that golfers are prone to getting,” he said.

It’s well known that years of powerful swinging motions can cause tendonitis and “golfer’s elbow,” technically known as lateral epicondylitis.

Tiger Woods’ back surgery history shows that golfers are also prone to chronic lower back pain. “The amount of force that can be created while swinging a golf club puts golfers at increased risk of acute disc herniation, stress fractures and other common causes of back pain,” says Dr. Gorman, who practices in PPOA’s New Port Richey, Fla. location.

Disc herniation occurs when the soft center of a disc that separate spinal bones pushes out and presses against surrounding nerves. It can result in pain, numbness and weakness in an arm or leg.  Woods complained of severe leg pain after his third back surgery, and had to undergo a fourth in 2017. That specialized procedure, known as an interior lumbar interbody fusion, welds unstable vertebrae together so they heal into a single, solid bone.

Lower Back Pain Treatments

Woods recently told People that he is now pain-free, but has to make some adjustments to his swing. “He has had to change his spinal rotation significantly due to the fusion in his back,” Dr. Gorman observes.

For weekend golfers, surgery is not always necessary. Some benefit from aggressive physical therapy. Epidural steroid injections (ESI) and platelet-rich plasma and stem cell therapy can also help ward off surgery in some cases.

Physician Partners of America Pain Relief Group physicians offer ESI, regenerative medicine and other interventional treatments. In cases of pinched nerves or disc disease, the PPOA Minimally Invasive Spine Group offers laser-assisted procedures that can be done in one day with minimal downtime.





Metropolitan Ministries praises collection drive efforts

Physician Partners of America has received the Golden Barrel Award from Metropolitan Ministries, a leading charity for the homeless and at those at risk of homelessness in Tampa Bay.

In presenting the award at PPOA’s Habana Ambulatory Surgery Center on Feb. 15, Metropolitan Ministries President Tim Marks, said, “I want you to know we look at you all as ambassadors of hope by coming alongside us and helping these families. This is something we like to honor.

“We love organizations that give back to others in the community and that’s what we want to celebrate today. For us, to see an organization like Physician Partners give their time, talent and treasures, and the donations that have come to us …it gives people hope.”

Josh Helms, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing for Physician Partners of America, has been an Ambassador with the charity for more than five years, and has been instrumental in involving PPOA for the past year.

“We at Physician Partners of America feel very blessed to have the opportunity to serve our patients while at the same time giving back and having a positive influence in our community,” Helms said.

The company has donated hundreds of pounds of clothing, toys, school backpacks and canned food to Metropolitan Ministries’ in its signature blue barrels placed in its clinics and offices.

“I appreciate Josh’s leadership as a volunteer with the Ambassadors for many, many years and helping families in need,” said Marks. “To see that bubble up here, with all your involvement and engagement, we give the Golden Barrel Award to Physician Partners of America, honoring your dedication and outstanding service to others. Salute you and thank you.”

The agency, which has been around for 45 years, has seen the needs of area families double from 100 to 200 per month. Part of it is attributed to Florida residents and Puerto Rican refugees from Hurricane Irma and, in general, “the storms of life.”

Marks added, “We’re able to help many more people, and you all are part of the solution.”