Maybe it was more a purr than a roar, but there was no doubt Thursday that Tiger Woods is back in action. In his first round of tournament golf since March, Woods carded a three over-par 74. Still, it wasn’t the scorecard that told the story.
Woods was clearly able to play at full strength following surgery for a pinched nerve in his back that sidelined him from the tour.
“The back’s great,” Woods told the Golf Channel. “I had no issues at all…it felt fantastic. That’s one of the reasons why I let go on those tee shots. I hit it pretty hard out there.”
In spite of its genteel reputation, professional golf punishes the body with its demands for strength and endurance. Nine-time PGA champion Fred Funk suffers from a number of aches and pains accumulated in his 30 years on the tour. Like Woods, Funk believes that staying in top shape is the key to longevity in professional golf.
“You need a lot of power in your swing time after time to generate sufficient club head speed,” says Funk.
Woods chose the Quicken Loans National at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland to rejoin the tour. He’s the host for the event staged to support his children’s foundation.
Doctors removed a piece of bone that was squeezing nerves in Woods’ back— a procedure called a microdiscectomy. Since then he admits it’s been a long road back beginning with a change in his “no pain-no gain” philosophy. An approach the 38-old Woods admits wasn’t sustainable.
“I used to run 30 miles a week and just push it, no matter how hurt I was...and still play tournament golf and I was winning, but I didn’t realize how much damage I was doing to my body at the time,” Woods told the New York Times prior to the tournament.
In addition to a change in attitude, Woods chilled out with frequent ice baths, a demanding exercise routine aimed at strengthening his back and he even adopted a Mediterranean diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods.
Natural ingredients like turmeric, ginger and rosemary are well known for their ability to reduce pain. While modern treatments are invaluable, they can be complimented by alternatives that are not only effective but also nutritious.
“It’s been an interesting road. We had a game plan for how we were going to do it, and we did it,” said Woods at a pre-tournament news conference about his rapid turnaround.
Back pain often occurs from a muscle or ligament sprain, a disc issue, like the one that afflicted Woods, or a narrowing of the spinal column known as stenosis.
Still, the pain bogey doesn’t have to keep you in the clubhouse. One of the best preventive approaches is setting up a regular exercise program. Even a moderate work out three times a week can lower your weight, decrease blood pressure and increase muscle strength as much as 50 percent.
Another tip—take time to warm up before a match so you are limber and ready to play.
If you need pain relief, many patients are now choosing natural treatments that reduce inflammation without the risk of addiction to prescription painkillers.
There’s a place for them, but generally not as a first resort. These opioids simply mask the pain without treating the cause.
Take a tip from Tiger. Even he didn’t have his best round on Thursday; he showed something more important. A champion’s true strength is not just winning but having the will to triumph over pain.