Neck Pain Keeps Elite Golfer Michelle Wie From U.S. Women’s Open

We all wake up with a stiff neck from time to time. But ever since suffering whiplash in a minor car accident, elite golfer Michelle Wie has been in frequent pain. She occasionally loses the full range of motion in her neck, and this week that led to her withdrawal from competing in the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.

Wie began feeling pain just prior to the tournament, and was seen favoring the right side of her neck during Wednesday’s practice session. Onlookers noticed that she seemed unable to turn her head. The pain was so pronounced during the first round that she sought help from a physical therapist, but it apparently was not enough. By the time she was in the middle of the second round the next day, the pain had become intolerable and she withdrew in the middle of the 11th hole.

Observers said that the neck pain was evident in a number of ways. Wie had tape on her upper back and shoulder at practice on Tuesday and her movements were stiff. Each time she swung she abbreviated her finish, and she admitted that she has not hit a full shot since the KPMG Women’s PGA Champitonship two weeks earlier. Though she tried to play through the pain, it was notable that after hitting her drive on the 16th tee she quickly went into the clubhouse with two trainers, and when she returned she was wearing an ice pack and not finishing her swing. Before taking her full shots she turned her entire body to look down the line rather than simply turning her head.

Whiplash is one of the most common causes of neck pain. It can impact the neck’s muscles or ligaments, as well as the nerves, and when these structures are injured the pain frequently refers to other area such as the arms and shoulder. It is also common for whiplash to cause damage to the intervertebral discs, though Wie has indicated that her MRI shows no such damage.

Neck pain can be addressed by a qualified spine surgeon, and should be if range of motion has been compromised as has apparently happened to Wie. Using a methodical approach and after careful clinical investigation, treatment may include the use of medications, physical and massage therapy as Michelle Wie received onsite, and aquatic therapy. If these approaches fail, the next step is frequently surgical treatment such as an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion or cervical disc replacement. Each of these solutions should be carefully considered, with the more conservative approach generally being tried first.

If you are suffering from chronic neck pain and it is impacting your ability to participate in your normal everyday activities, contact our office to make an appointment to see Dr. Rovner.

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