Herniated Disk, Any advice for future?
I have been lifting seriously for 3 years using mostly philosophy similar to starting strength and a 5x5. I went from a skinny 6'2 180 lbs to 220lbs lean and maintained around there. My squat got up to a deep 350lbs and the deadlift got to a best of 475.
I had a few back injuries when i started training but form issues were the case. I was fine for a couple years. One day I was squatting ~200 lbs rapidly as a warm up, I went down and came up and something didn't go right, I stopped my workout there. It quieted down then i kept reinjuring it doin the most trivial things even when giving myself a couple weeks off. Eventually saw an orthopedic surgeon and my l5 s1 disk was pretty degenerated and a pretty big hernia out the back. I took my doctor's advice and haven't lifted since (about 3 months).
He said I was too young for surgery at 21 but nothing is really working treatment wise and I've gotten worse sciatica.
Ive seen an gp, osteopath, neurologist, neurosurgeon, and even chiropractor. None have really gotten me anywhere. We have tried NSAIDS, tons of rest, cortisone injection, and even oral cortisone.
I get a lot of good results from inversion table and am considering doing spinal decompression therapy.
My question, do you have any advice for this injury? The neurosurgeon told me to see where I am at after another couple months and then he may recommend surgery.
Will I ever be able to lift again? Weightlifting was a huge part of my life and it really is hard on me lately. Ive been able to maintain bodyweight and mass with diet but I don't know how long it will last.
Do you recommend I get surgery or try anything else? I realize you will say something along the lines that you don't qualify for medical advice, but medical advice so far is really leaving me open ended.
Do you have experience with any other athletes with similar problems? Have they recovered and been able to get back into the sport? My current plan is to wait till Im done with school and try spinal decompression (I've had a consultation and a few trial treatments and they helped temporarily, but I am not sure if it has long term results and it is very expensive (not covered by insurance)).
You can do your own spinal decompression. There are many sources of info on this on the web. It may work well, it may not. But I have heard from lots of people that nothing help their disc problems as much as a return to barbell training. I find it interesting that at the age of 21 you have an injury commonly seen in geriatric patients, coming from an activity that does not commonly produce these conditions. Medical folks will be of no help until the surgery. Just make damn sure you need it before you get it done, and when you know it needs to be done get it done immediately.
yeah, I had the same thing happen (L4/L5), probably from rowing last year although I'm not sure (I was lifting at the time too, could have been from bad form). I went to a trainer at a crossfit place near me, got my form straightened out, and my back has felt a lot better. Also, give the mckenzie exercises a shot. Huge help to me.
Basically: check form (although I am sure it is good, there are probably some small things you can do to minimize disc pressure), try the mckenzie exercises, and try reverse glute/ham raises.
Nothing has helped my back as much as a return to barbell training. Yes, chiro, massage, inversion all helped, but just lifting again (properly) along with some assist exercises (mainly reverse hypers with a long pause at the top) was what has back to normal. Still have pain and stiffness occasionaly, but it's a lot less than it was.
1) Ab-sling knee lifts with as much weight as you can strap to your ankles - like the inversion table, it will stretch your spine, and you get the benefit of doing ab work at the same time. Do LOTS of ab work - it helps the spine immensely, IMAO.
2) Exercise your back to exhaustion in some way, at least 1x evey other week. Doesn't really matter how (I did 4 hour bike rides), but it works by forcing your muscles to relax through being unable to contract in any meaningful way (via exaustion). This breaks the cycle of nerve impingement / tightened muscles / more nerve impingment / even tighter muscles in a way that stretching just didn't seem to. You'll be tired, but your pain shuold be greatly reduced.
Oh, and ICE!
Roughly 5 years ago I suffered 2 disc herniations, 1 extrusion and a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease...my doc wanted me to have surgery and have the disc's removed ASAP. I spoke with another doc, who's husband was a powerlifter, and her suggesstion was to wait until the pain was so bad that I couldn't take it any longer. Her husband had undergone a similar surgery and never felt the same again.
I went to see a local chiropractor and underwent several months of treatment which included a home exercise similar to the Cobra Pose in yoga...start by laying flat on the floor and push/lift you chest up while keeping your hips/legs on the floor. Keep going until your arms and back are fully extended then lower yourself and repeat for 10 reps. Perform 2-3 sets every morning and night.
After a month or so I had no lingering issues...occasional twinges through the years but they went away once I completed a couple rounds of the exercise mentioned above.
Similar to the podiatrist who told me to stop lifting due to the potential for reinjuring my foot the other MD's told me to not lift weights due to my back. I have ignored that advice and have not had any issues with my back since coming back to weight training...and that's with a 1RM squat of 420, 1RM DL of 450 and RDL of 3x8x245.
Im about willing to try barbell training again, it has helped so much in my general development, ive gotten big, strong, fast, flexible, coordinated very easily.
How do you recommend I work my way back into training?
I really have lost a lot of respect for the medical community after this injury because it has gotten me nowhere. My orthopedic surgeon specializing in "sports medicine" didn't seem very familiar with weightlifting whatsoever and told me not to bench or squat anymore. I don't even see how benching could possibly hurt my back more.
"Sports Medicine" means the medical treatment by a physician who is himself a runner or cyclist of overuse injuries that are thought to be the result of running or riding your bicycle. It is a wonderful waste of money for lifters. As for your return to lifting, I'd recommend some version of the injury sticky protocol.
Read "ULTIMATE BACK FITNESS AND PERFORMANCE" by Stuart McGill he has his bacl clients squating benching doing cleans chains bands and other goodies add his knowledge to Rip's and some of the other very knowledgable guys on this forum and you"ll not go wrong
I ran this plan by my GP because I was picking something up from the office. He agrees that the worst thing for an injured patient to do is lay in bed all day. He told me that the plan was reasonable and to just listen to my body and take stuff slow.
I agree strongly with this post. Though I can't comment on icing because I've never tried it. Get back to lifting (properly) and realize your back is not fragile, it is structurally very strong, and when doctors attempt to find mechanical failures with MRIs, the evidence from many MRIs actually show structural problems with people who have no pain, and show no problems with people who do have pain. Disk herniations are commonly over-diagnosed, and the few painful disk herniations that do occur may even resolve spontaneously, the disk retracting back into place.
Originally Posted by Steve in ATL
I know a little about back pain myself as a 51 year-old who has spent years as a furniture mover and several years as a tree worker who's tossed my share of logs into the chipper. I've had many back strains and I've always taken it a bit easy for a couple days and was back full tilt just a few days later. The fact is, the vast majority of back pain results merely from stressed muscle tissue, myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), as it's called, and the quicker you recognize this and thus allay your fears of structural injury, the better, because believe it or not, your mind very likely is at the root of much of your back pain.
"After the age of 40, perfectly normal vertebral columns rapidly become rarer and rarer. It is unusual after that age to see spines without x-ray evidence of aging, including thinning of disks and thinning of articular surfaces. The longer a man lives, the more impressive the radiologic changes in his vertebral column become."
--College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Province of Quebec
But statistics show that low back pain is a phenomenon of people in their thirties and forties, and In fact, people actually get less back pain as they age. So if back pain is structural, and not muscular, then how do you explain this?
Unless you're in the very small minority of people who actually have severe structural back issues, get over your fear of back pain and get back under the bar lifting again with proper form. And note that there's evidence that people with poor back-muscle endurance, rather than poor back-muscle strength, are much more likely to develop back troubles. Perhaps that's why Rip's injury rehab method for muscle-belly injuries works so well.