LPGA Player Natalie Gulbis: How I got my life back after surgery

Natalie GulbisYou may have seen in the news this week another fellow golfer, Tiger Woods, who is struggling with back pain, chose surgery. I know what that pain is like. I’ve been golfing for as long as I can remember. When I was 18, shortly after joining the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour, I injured my back. I lived with chronic back pain for several years, getting cortisone injections for relief and spending a lot of time in physical therapy.

In 2009, the pain got so bad that I had to pull out of my last six events that year. I decided that I needed to see a doctor about my pain. When I met with my doctor, he told me that I had two options: retire from golfing or have major back surgery. He suggested that I retire, and I didn’t like either option.

A friend mentioned that I look into Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive procedures. Laser Spine Institute helped me understand my pain and how to treat it by doing what no other doctor had done before — performing an MRI in golf posture. This allowed them to see exactly what was causing my pain. I knew that having my surgery with Laser Spine Institute was the right thing to do.

After I had my surgery at Laser Spine Institute, I was up and walking around a couple hours later.  I felt great after my surgery. I felt better than I had since I was 18 years old. But even after I had my surgery, I still had to make sure that I was protecting my back to avoid reinjuring it.

Here are my tips on how to keep your back from hurting after surgery:

Listen to your doctor. It’s very important that you listen to your surgeon’s instructions after surgery. Check with your doctor before you engage in any sort of physical activity so that you don’t reinjure your back. Your doctor will work with you to determine when it is OK to return to physical activities.

Listen to your body. Once your surgeon OKs you for physical activity, remember to take it slow. When you are first starting to work out, it is important to listen to your body because it will tell you if you are doing something too soon. If a certain activity causes you pain, don’t continue to do it. That just means that your body isn’t ready for that move yet.

Strengthen your core muscles. One of the most important things you can do after surgery is to strengthen your core muscles because it helps prevent future injuries. Doing physical therapy, Pilates or yoga can help strengthen your core muscles. I still do these types of activities to help prevent injury when I’m playing golf.

Eat the correct foods. Another important factor to consider after surgery is how you eat. Healthy foods can help relieve inflammation, which can cause pain, and they can also help you stay fit. Staying at a healthy weight will also take some strain off your back.

Before you make any changes, though, make sure you talk to your physician to ensure that it is the best option for you.

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