Tigres' Texan midfielder Jose Torres endured two and a half months in pain and was often confined to his bed.
The training field, teammates and the routine of being a professional footballer wasn't far away physically -- in the Nuevo Leon municipality of General Zuazua, where Tigres train -- but emotionally it might as well have been on a different planet.
Torres shed tears of sheer frustration at the slipped disc, the failed attempts to treat it without going under the knife and then the eventual surgery in Jan. 2015, which kept the 28-year-old out of action for six months.
The road for Torres back to playing regularly was complicated even after he was able to return to full training in June 2015, not least because competition for minutes at Tigres is arguably greater than at any Liga MX side and coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti isn't exactly known for experimenting from week to week.
But things appear to have turned a corner. This Apertura 2016, "Gringo" Torres -- as he is better known in Mexico -- is starting once again and the smile is back.
"After the surgery on my back, it cost me a lot to get back my starting spot," Torres told ESPN FC after Tigres' 2-0 victory over Monarcas in Morelia on Saturday.
"But I think I did a great preseason and [Ferretti] has given me the confidence again, so I have to take advantage of that."
Torres has started six of Tigres' eight Liga MX games and the side has been dominant, winning four, drawing the other four and conceding just three goals in the process. Torres has taken over in central midfield from Mexico international Jesus Duenas, who has been shifted to right-back.
"We have a great team," Torres said. "From our goalie to our forwards we all know what we play for and we do well in midfield, we try to be solid."
Alongside combative Argentine Guido Pizarro, Torres is the brains of the Tigres engine room. In a side with the second highest average amount of possession in the Apertura, as well as most touches on the ball, Torres' role is that of a link between the defensive and attacking components of the team and his pass completion percentage of 83.5 suggests he is doing it well.
Torres often receives the ball from center-backs Hugo Ayala or Juninho and dictates the direction of Tigres' attacks, usually into the feet of striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, or out wide to wingers Javier Aquino and Ismael Sosa.
As a mark of his confidence at the moment, Torres could be seen remonstrating with Gignac on Saturday, demanding more from the former Marseille striker, who has firmly stamped his mark on the Liga MX.
"During the game I get onto him because he loses a lot of balls, so I try to help him out, but at the end of the day we're friends," Torres said with a smirk.
"You learn a lot from him. He does a lot of great things for us. When he's in front of goal, he's deadly."
But Tigres aren't just Gignac. Recent signing Sosa was one of the best players in the Copa Libertadores for Pumas earlier this year, Mexico international Jurgen Damm is struggling to get games and the club from Nuevo Leon just bought 24-year-old French striker Andy Delort from Ligue 1 outfit Caen.
Then there is coach Ferretti, who has been in charge over 2,300 days -- almost four times longer than Pachuca's Diego Alonso, who is the next on the Liga MX coach longevity list. The relentless possession-based Ferretti style is firmly implanted at Tigres.
"The owner has been [spending] money," explained Torres. "There is a lot of competition, a lot of great players and I guess the people want to see amazing things."
Around 3,000 Tigres fans made the journey south to watch their side against Morelia and backed by the fervent support Torres believes this team has a good shot at winning the Liga MX title this season.
But that isn't the only goal Torres has set this Apertura. The long-term goal for the Texas native is to once again wear the shirt of the United States, even if his last game for Jurgen Klinsmann's side came over three years ago at the 2013 Gold Cup.
"He's a great coach," the bilingual Torres said of Klinsmann. "I've got to keep working hard to try and get back to the national team. It's one of my goals and hopefully during this season I get called up. "
Whether Klinsmann still retains any interest in Torres only time will tell, but there aren't many U.S. players starting games for teams that can make a legitimate claim to be one of the best in the Americas.