Tiger Woods: The Face of Modern Back Pain

5069adae5efe077c6c692453622e451bTiger Woods
By Sean M. Wheeler, M.D.

Professional golfer and chronic back pain sufferer Tiger Woods appears to be doing worse, much worse.

Golf journalist Robert Lusetich, formerly of Fox Sports, reported this week that Tiger Woods' condition has worsened since a pair of back surgeries in Fall 2015. Lusetich, author of “Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger’s Most Tumultuous Season,” indicates Woods can’t move well and has pain while sitting.

Although Woods' agent was quick to deny the Lusetich report and a video of Woods swinging a golf club was posted @TigerWoods, Woods has become the face of modern medicine's failure in treating chronic back pain.

He is athletic, strong, active, determined, rich, employs the best trainers, golf coaches, physical therapists and travels to see the best doctors he can find. With access to any professional help he wishes, if anyone should be able to overcome chronic back pain it is Tiger Woods. Yet, after three surgeries his back pain keeps him absent from the professional tour.

As predicted here one year ago, Tiger Woods is another victim of the healthcare industry's decades-long lack of progress in the treatment of chronic back pain.

With Woods the latest victim, what does this say to the many worldwide sufferers of chronic back pain?

Today's medicine relies upon a mistaken treatment theory of "get the patient out of pain and back to normal activity, and all will be well." If this theory were true, it would work successfully with an uber-athletic, driven-to-return-to-his-previous-activity patient with access to every available resource such as Tiger Woods. The theory does not work, because modern medicine ignores the human body's power to brace.

When the power to brace functions in unison with the power to move, the human body performs without chronic pain.

A baby begins to walk as she gradually masters the innate use of her bracing muscles, so that her young body is able to brace itself permitting self-directed movement, including the taking of her first steps.       

Understanding how our bodies must develop this power to brace within months of birth, and combine it with the power to move, offers deep insight into how we learn to walk, and how our bodies retain mobility through a lifetime — or lose it — whether professional athlete or couch potato.

The power to brace is provided by specialized Bracing Muscles® found in six high-performance locations within the body — ankles, feet, low back, neck, shoulders, hips. 

At peak capability and as the label implies, bracing muscles brace, providing all-day stability by not moving, while our action muscles provide dynamic movement.

As the condition becomes chronic, back pain indicates a diminished or even full loss of the body's power to brace the low back. In losing the stability that comes through fit bracing muscles, no amount of moving [for example, no amount of strength training] will bring back this needed bracing stability. The lack of stability leads to compensating use of action muscles, which leads to more pain and increasing back pain severity. 

How did modern healthcare reach this point? Let me count the ways:

  • Modern medicine does not understand the cause of chronic back pain; 
  • Reliance upon a failed algorithm for back pain diagnosis;
  • Failure to distingush bracing muscles as unique within the body, leading to a misguided belief bracing muscles may be strengthened while the patient remains in pain; and
  • A mindset that bracing muscle fitness may be restored as quickly as can action muscle fitness, within a few short weeks.

For Woods and all back pain sufferers, modern healthcare must focus first on restoring the body's bracing power, before any focus on movement.

Given medicine's lack of effectiveness in treating this disease, a new prediction for Tiger Woods.

Assuming the Lusetich report is true, Woods may look for products touted as back pain remedies outside of established medicine, as do many who suffer, such as a spinal cord stimulatorinversion table, perhaps even acupuncture. He will attempt a return to golf and fail to return to his competitive standard, having not found a medical specialist who understands the role of bracing muscle fitness in back pain causation. For both Woods and his fans, only memories of past golfing greatness will remain.

Chronic back pain sufferer Tiger Woods; all that is wrong with modern medicine's understanding of the world's leading cause of disability.

Feb 26 2016
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