Tiger's "Bulging Disk"; I'm Not Buying It
During the final round of this year's Players Championship, Tiger Woods picked up his clubs and went home on the 7th hole after complaining of "neck pain and muscle spasms". Following a short treatment session in a nearby medical trailor, Tiger got in his SUV and left the course. Early reports and a direct statement from Tiger at a following presser revealed that the cause of his neck pain was a bulging disk (or a bulging something, depending on who you ask at the Golf Channel).
Unfortunately for Tiger, his prognosis doesn't exactly add up.
According to an article written by Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD, a herniated (often referred to as "bulging") disk can certainly be painful and debilitating to a patient, especially an elite athlete. However, muscle spasms are not a symptom associated with a herniated disk. Instead, the symptoms associated with such a disorder are as follows:
Nerve Compression: When a vertebrae herniates (or pushes out of alignment) from the spinal column, this "bulge" pushes on a nerve stemming from the spinal cord. As a result, muscle weakness is the most common symptom noticed by the patient. As of the time of this writing, muscle weakness was never a symptom that Tiger complained about during his round.
Nerve Function: Again according to Ullrich, when a nerve becomes compressed as a result of a herniated disk, numbness or tingling may occur within the legs and arms of the patient. This is primarily due to the origin of most nerves leading to the limbs, which is in the cervical and lumbar portion of the spine. Tiger complained of no muscle tingling or numbness.
Diagnosis of a Herniated Disk: Perhaps the most telling sign that Tiger might be keeping something from us is the fact that the only way a herniated disk can be accurately diagnosed is via the use of a CT Scan or MRI. As of the time of this writing, Tiger has had neither procedure, therefore making his "bulging disk" diagnosis pure conjecture.
So what can cause the symptoms that Woods felt on Sunday, i.e. muscle spasm, neck pain, and a lower range of motion?
According to Donald Murphy, DC, the most likely diagnosis for a patient experiencing the same symptoms Tiger has been complaining about is whiplash. And what is the most common cause of whiplash?
Joint dysfunction due to whiplash is the most likely culprit in this case, especially when considering the following statement by Murphy:
Additionally, joint dysfunction can lead to muscle imbalance and pain, and
a vicious cycle:
The loss of joint play can cause abnormal signals to the nervous system (there are an abundance of nerve receptors in the joint)
The muscles related to that joint can subsequently become tense or, conversely, underactive
The resulting muscle imbalance can place increased stress on the joint, aggravating the joint dysfunction that already exists