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scottyjoe145

Back injury - Is golf worth the surgery??

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I've been plagued with a bad back for many years.  I have a bulging disc and have been warned if I keep playing it will cause further damage.  I'm not what they consider a "surgical candidate" now, but my back is giving me fits.  I battle sciatic nerve issues and muscle fatigue every time I play.  My chiropractor bill is sometimes as high as my monthly dues at the club.  The point being, its becoming too much.  If I keep playing I could end up having a surgery, and in the meantime I'm going through serious discomfort.

My question is, should I just quit playing altogether and save my back??  Should I keep playing until I need surgery, have the surgery, and continue to keep golf as a part of my life??

(Question for people that have had a back surgery)  Is it worth having a surgery?  Will it be better on the other side?

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I know your pain.  I have had a herniated disc(s) for a very long time now.  In about 2001 or so I had my first epidural steroid injection, which helped quite a bit ... for a year or so.  Then did chiropractic for awhile, and that helped a$ long a$ I was $till going to the chiropractor, if you get my drift.  Over the years since then, 2 more series of epidurals, a couple stints with chiropractors, and golf was on again, off again.

However, 2 years ago I went to a physical therapist (actually recommended by the Dr. that did my injections, in leiu of injections at that time).  Since then, I have been able to manage the pain the best that I have since 2001 when it started.  I just do the exercises and stretches given me by the physical therapist and so far so good.  (Planks, supermans, laying on my back pretending to ride a bicycle, and the other usual suspects that I don't know the name of)

Obviously, I'm not really the one you're looking for an answer from as I have not had surgery, but just thought I'd chime in anyways.

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It always amazes me the physical risks people endure for a game.  If I were told if I continue to do X (a game or leisure activity), then I will likely hurt myself and require surgery, I stop doing X.

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I also have a bad back so I feel your pain. About a month and a half ago I ruptured a disc and that disc fragment was resting on a nerve causing right leg numbness and pain. I was given the choice of surgery or a 12 day pain med and steroid regimen. I chose the steroids and so far so good.  Dont get me wrong, my back still stiffens up from time to time but it's WAY more manageable. I have zero numbness but I do have to have PT on going from time to time which is fine.

My wife likes to blame every ache and pain in my body on golf so she asked the Dr flat out if I should stop golfing and he said NO. Just golf smarter. (Stretch, work on core strength) He explained that he had golfed the weekend before and his back was sore from it, but he refuses to give up the game.

I know this does not really answer your question but ask if steroids (Prednazone) is something you can try before full on surgery.

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I had a doctor tell me once that the main reason people have had a SECOND back surgery, is beacause they had a FIRST back surgery. IMO, I would try anything before the knife!

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Originally Posted by RonTheSavage

My wife likes to blame every ache and pain in my body on golf so she asked the Dr flat out if I should stop golfing and he said NO.

My doctor told me to relax more and play more golf so I asked him if he would write a note to my wife and he smartly said NO.

I don't have a bad back but I know people that do and it is not something that I would want to risk just to play golf. Your back is a quality of life issue that if you really screw up you can have unintended consequences for the rest of your life. I have known guys that have injured their backs and became addicted to Vicodin and pain clinics because dealing with daily chronic pain was too much. I have also known guys that were in pain, sought solutions, and came out fine with minor surgery. The point is that your back is nothing to fool with. Get it healthy, explore your options, but don't undergo surgery  because you injured it further playing golf. My .02.

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Originally Posted by Gresh24

It always amazes me the physical risks people endure for a game.  If I were told if I continue to do X (a game or leisure activity), then I will likely hurt myself and require surgery, I stop doing X.

What if its a sport?

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Originally Posted by dsc123

What if its a sport?

Goes for any sport, or activity we do for fun.  I wasn't saying golf isn't a sport.  I meant anything we do as a leisure activity, including all the sports we play.  It can be basketball, hockey, softball, golf, or whatever.  We're all armatures just doing them for fun.   I said "X" in my original post because I think it applies to all sports.

Why anyone would risk permanent injury for that is what I don't understand.

If golfing, or that sport you may hurt yourself in, is part of your livlihood, than it becomes a different consideration.

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My primary doctor said that surgery is always the last resort when it comes to a back injury. I've had two different back episodes and I wasn't able to pinpoint the exact problem because my insurance doesn't want to authorize payment for an MRI. X-rays didn't show any structural damage to the spine, so my doctor reduced it down to a disc issue.

The second episode I suffered just last month and I'm going through physical therapy once a week to recover. Along with that, I'm taking Gabapentin for the sciatic nerve pain and despite it's sedating effects, it does help with the pain. I also take ibuprofen for any type of muscle inflammation. I haven't played golf in a while, but I think my health is more important right now so I'm willing to give up playing to strengthen and heal. Basically, I'm investing time to improve my overall condition so the injury doesn't happen again. In return, I'll be able to play more rounds. I would recommend doing the same if you're patient enough.

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Originally Posted by scottyjoe145

My question is, should I just quit playing altogether and save my back??  Should I keep playing until I need surgery, have the surgery, and continue to keep golf as a part of my life??

Why not just give it up for a few years?  I thought I had a "bad back", lived with a whole family of people with "bad backs", went to see a spinal surgeon who is also a golfer and he told me three things:  your swing sucks, the right muscles are out of shape, and you sit down too much.  I realized that's pretty much the problem with my whole family, minutes the swing sucks part.  I don't know what your situation is.  Maybe you're like my buddy who broke his back getting launched from an aircraft carrier.  But for 99% of people, it's muscular weakness and bad lifestyle habits, including bad swings, etc.  Give golf up for a while, walk more, get in good shape, and see if the problem gets better.  Stop going to chiropractors, surgeons, or whoever and try to take control and responsibility for it yourself.  See what happens.

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It all depends.  Quitting isn't any guarantee that your day-to-day comfort will improve, is it?  If a doctor told me that I can quit now and hope to suffer only mild discomfort in day-to-day activities for the rest of my life, or keep playing, likely aggravating the condition and have a surgery that would have me back to normal, I'd keep playing.

But there are a lot of considerations.  Like your current level of addiction to golf, your age, what other activities you enjoy, whether those activities will also have to be put on hold, etc.

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I went down the exact same road 11 yrs ago.  Bulging disc, sciatic pain, right leg and foot numbness, chiropractor, etc.   I had endured it for about six months then one day I was changing a flat tire and the bulging disc ruptured.  All the symptoms then magnified and within 30 days I could hardly walk.  After I suffered several sudden spasms that would take my legs right out from under me without any warning, I went back to my doctor, but this time they had to bring a wheel chair out to the car to wheel me into the office.  I was then sent to a surgical consult.  By then I could not rise from a seat without assistance and once up on my feet I was walking like Igor, dragging my uncontrollable numb right foot, using a cane, and already experiencing nerve damage that the surgeon said couldn't be repaired.

After more imaging, cat scan, mylogram, etc, he found the problem and said he could stop the progress of the nerve damage but could not repair it, and after the surgery and I'd be dependent on using a cane from then on.  Post surgery, 9 weeks later, when he finally released me to return to work I asked him if I'd be able to play golf and he basically said, "I can't tell you yes or no cause I'm not a golfer, but go out there and swing a club and your back will tell you if you can or can't". He also said that, with therapy, if I got back 65-70% normal use of my right leg and foot that would be as much as I could expect.  After all that I still needed a cane and kept a portable TENS unit strapped to my belt massaging my lower back with electricity 24 hours a day.

Then, approx 4 months after going back to work a coworker convinced me to get some acupuncture treatments, which ended up having an enormous positive effect on the nerve damage in my hip, leg, and foot.  4 months of acupuncture treatments, 3 times a week, brought me back to approx 90% recovery, which I have learned to live with.  I did have to give up golfing for a while and once I got back into it, my back swing was shorter.  But that turned out to be a good thing.

In the end, if I'd known that nerve damage is not repairable, at least with Allopathic medical treatment, I would have seen the surgeon much sooner than I did.


Golf, by itself, may not be worth surgery, but quality of life certainly is.

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My doctor told me to relax more and play more golf so I asked him if he would write a note to my wife and he smartly said NO. - Now thats funny

I read somewhere that your abs should be sore after a round of golf or even a range session. Your core is your bodies support system and engaging or flexing as you address the ball all the way to follow through should help. I've only been doing this now for a few weeks but it seems to help me.

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First of all, from everything I know about bulged and herniated disks (which is a fair bit), golf will not make the injury worse, though it will aggravate it and cause the injury to flare up.

If you have a good swing, the movement is so fluid that it should put barely any stress on your back, though you may have to learn to slide the club over the grass, instead of taking a deep divot. Thats what a friend of mine had to learn to do, and while he doesnt have the distance he did before with his irons, he is still long enough to play unaffected.

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Originally Posted by ApocG10

First of all, from everything I know about bulged and herniated disks (which is a fair bit), golf will not make the injury worse, though it will aggravate it and cause the injury to flare up.

If you have a good swing, the movement is so fluid that it should put barely any stress on your back, though you may have to learn to slide the club over the grass, instead of taking a deep divot. Thats what a friend of mine had to learn to do, and while he doesnt have the distance he did before with his irons, he is still long enough to play unaffected.

I've recently adopted more of a Jeff Ritter one plane swing and I hardly take a divot. I've noticed a slight drop in distance with my irons but as long as I can continue to play I can live with that.

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First off, let me tell you that I understand and literally feel your pain.

I have Level 2 S pondylolisthesis from years of football and boxing. With that, comes the pars fracture and 2 herniated discs near L4-L5. I went in for a "steroid injection" and the Cleveland Clinic pain management doctor said he would have pictured someone being wheeled into his office in a wheel chair prior to meeting me - when he saw my MRI results.

I'm 27 years old and on my good days, I can probably walk 40 yards straight before the intense sciatica kicks in which for me, after ignoring the pain/injury for 10 years, gets to the point of feeling like I have been shot or stabbed with a molten-hot phillips screwdriver right in the side/back of the hip.

On my bad days, forget any type of pain killer (yes, even the prescribed ones) because they do nothing but take a light edge off of the pain.

Long story short, the injection worked for about 2 weeks and the doctor wanted me to go back and get another one. After I saw the $700 out of pocket bill with the best insurance that is available - there was no way in hell I was going back for the 1-2 more injections he recommended with only an "estimated 30% chance they would work".

Here's what I am now doing to fight the pain:

1) Sleep with a pillow between your knees, with whatever side that hurts off of the bed (ie: if your right leg is where the pain is at, sleep on your left side).

2) Exercising my core again to get back into the shape that I was in when I was an athlete, which has dropped the level of pain by nearly 25% so far. Sometimes, this requires fighting through excruciating pain that makes a grown mans eyes water up during the process.

3) Remaining active and not letting the pain take over your life. Keep playing golf if you're able to do so without risking injury.

My doctor basically told me that I am not risking anything, besides severe pain, by remaining active and prolonging surgery. There is no cure for what is wrong with my back besides exercise to strengthen the muscles around the spinal column so that it does not slip farther forward - and I will require surgery eventually.

The problem is that he told me if I had a fusion procedure done now, it's only a matter of time before the remainder of the discs are worn out above/below the area and I would require more surgery in the future.

I am personally trying to prolong the knife and fighting through the pain at every cost - even if that requires cussing my way to the ball and occasionally having to stop for a split second to pretend I have to tie my shoe (kneeling down will immediately alleviate the pain for a few minutes like a reset button).

Sorry for the long story here guys, I just know that there are many other people out there with pain that sometimes feel comforted by the fact that they're not the only ones who need a "John Daily" cocktail on the course to get through 18 holes of the game they love...to hate!

EDIT : I left out an extremely important point - which is that I will need to go back and have an annual MRI to keep an eye on my back to make sure it is not getting worse. There is always that chance that my being stubborn is making my situation worse, but I refuse to get cut until I'm constantly in pain 24/7 and can't take it anymore. Right now, I am choosing to be stubborn because I'm too damn young to have Home Depot hardware shoved into my back.

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Had same issue with sciatica in my right leg.  Did the injections first which didn't work.  I had back surgery to remove the bulging part of the discs that was 2 years ago.  I play golf now with no pain and actually my back feels better when I'm active.  I highly recommend getting the surgery my sciatica went away instantly.  I do get muscle spams in my calves from time to time but, rarely.  I find stretching before and after my rounds help and sleeping with pillow between my legs.  I was worried about the surgery but, now I'm so glad I did it.  I had surgery on thursday and went back to work monday.  Started playing golf like 3 months after also.

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http://www.bonati.com/

You may want to give this clinic a try.  My dad used to suffer with back pain due to a disc protruding into the spinal canal.  He had this procedure done before they started using lasers - Dr. Bonati used a tiny hammer and chisel set up through the scope - and his recovery was quite remarkable.  I'm sure with lasers, the success rate is even better.  They aren't lying about it being minimally invasive... he was awake throughout the procedure and I drove him home that afternoon.

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Note: This thread is 2656 days old. We appreciate that you found this thread instead of starting a new one, but if you plan to post here please make sure it's still relevant. If not, please start a new topic. Thank you!

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