T Nation

Age 36, 2 Lumbar Fusions, Heart Attack

Guys if you have time to give advice it would be greatly appreciated.

Lifted weights until I broke my back in 1989, weighed 185 fit and muscular at the time of the accident. 6ft tall lost down to 155 then gained up to 244. First fusion in 1990 with pedicle screws, screws failed to fuse me. Next fusion in 1995 with bone grafts, failed also. Heart attack in 2005, 95% blockage, fixed with a stent.

Constant back pain due to lowest rib being pulled out by muscle spasms from my right side. Muscles on right side of back much larger than left. Tried 12 weeks of physical therapy and it didn’t help, Dr’s say I have to have another L5-S1 fusion. After 2 failed fusions and massive amounts of scar tissue I am opting out for now on another surgery.

Started Botox injections in back around ribs to stop spasms. 300 units every 3 months 3x then 400 units 1 time. First shots worked great for month and a half, didn’t wake up with a shaking back muscle every morning and could bend. Each subsequent shot had less effect and now zero effect. Cost me 1500 - 2000 per visit since insurance wouldn’t cover botox since it is not approved for pain management.

I have a baby boy due in a week, and don’t want him to know his father as the miserable fat guy I am now. I started working out in Dec, 5 days a week in the gym, in a lot of pain but doesn’t seem to be making my pain worse.

I want to maximize my workout to help get me fit and get my core muscles back on track to lift my first born without wincing in pain. After reading on forums about supplements and nutrition I feel like I need someone to give me some advice… was going to try NO Xplode, Cell Mass and Whey Protein, but now have read things that make me think that it may not be the best choice.

I need recommendations on supplements, nutrition and workouts for a guy who has a few challenges.

Sorry about the long post, but since you read it do you mind giving some advice?


Take a read through the stickies in the “Beginners” forum. Not saying you are a beginner but there are numerous links to eating/nutrition and training. All I can tell you is that with an injury you need to be careful. It may be wise to go talk to a MD or physio before starting some heavy lifting. At 41 yrs old I tore my shoulder up while lifting and I still feel it today, a year later. Us old farts take time to heal apparently (insert smiley face thing here)

As far as supplements go, you need to get your diet dialed in before even considering supplements. Save the money you would spend on supplements and buy some lean meat and lots of veggies.

With that said, a good multi-vitamin, some good quality whey/casein protein and fish oil (omega-3) is all a person really needs.

Good luck bud, hope you stick to your plan.

PS- Keep a food log, it helps getting your nutrition on track.

I feel your pain man. Check out my post here:

I lived over 3 years in crippling pain myself from herniated discs (lumbar) and ridiculously spasmed neck that gave me thoracic outlet syndrome, vertigo and all kinds of hell. Family has heinous history with back/neck problems so I was real familiar how lives are destroyed by this shit even before it crushed mine up like an empty beer can. Sons used to watch me train, lift, do mma and I used to haul them up mountains hiking then dad became the limp sack of shit laying on heating pad all day, irritable and out of it from pain. Hell, I got to where I couldn’t stand heat or sunlight or standing up “quickly,” a real basket case. I ended up with low T and thryoid and burnt out adrenals.

Finally got some HRT going with Dr Crisler and that got the body to actually start healing itself. Life is not grand yet that’s for sure, but I feel like I have a bit of a fighting chance again. My L4-L4-S1 are hanging on by a thread (that’s about how thick they are too) but I’m hoping to hold off on the fusion for as long as I can and always researching latest on surgeries, techniques and treatments.

Don’t waste precious on supplements that you don't need. I've pissed away 10's of thousands of over the last 20 some years that I could have used to accomplish something. Whey protein is ok, but it is food. Fish oil is a gift from the gods and is a required item. Then things like ZMA and melatonin if you need them. Plus the minor stuff you might need. Don’t waste money on that other crap you mentioned or I’ll stagger over there and whip you with my heating pad.

Core exercises are the central facet of my very limited exercise program now. Ab wheel rollouts are the best I’ve found. before that I had to do draw ins for a year or more because my T.A and multifidus were so shot. If you can walk, do it. It gently loosens everthing up and you can do the ab drawn ins at the same time. Planks, superman, cat-camel stretches, etc. read through the great articles here in performance section like Neanderthal no more, push-ups, face pulls, etc. You want stability not mobility in your lumbar region, esp. with that fusion.

Congratulations on your son. That is the best thing in the world, being a new father. Stay focused on the long term and rehab will happen,

At 64, I work arround a number of injuries. May I suggest that exercise wise, you start very light, high reps, that you can do with out pain. Dumbells are very important to me. I would start with calf raises, dumbell squats to avoid a barbell on shoulders and leg raises thinking these would start you on the lower body. Don’t be afraid of lifting too light. First get something going on that you can do painfree and without hurting yourself.

Because of the heart attack, and joint pain, I would use the Flameout from this site. Also I would go to the www.lifeplus.com site and use the 100 mg Proanthanols. When the first three exercises and two supplements are working for you, try slowly and lightly adding in an exercise that you can ‘move up the body’ with, and not injure yourself or create pain.

I realize that this is a slow and cautious idea, but your new child will love you if you are alive for its’s graduation. Progress will come, slowly. I am still lifting laughable weights, but hold my own in dangerous situations.

Further, on a recommendation, I purchased and read a book “Younger next Year”. Then I read it two more times, and changed by workouts to their plan. Since the first of December to now, the end of January, I feel much better.

Lastly, I would find an aerobic exercise that will not injure a back. I do 45 minutes on a bicycle 4 and 5 times a weeks, do whole body twice a week, and fun weights two other days a week. And all this allows me to work arround injurys and pain.

Instead of the NO Xplode, Cell Mass and Whey Protein, spend your money on a couple books: Low Back Disorders by Stuart McGill and Pain Free by Pete Egoscue.

Do the relevant exercises in both books.

McGill also tells you what exercises to AVOID in the gym; this is just as important.

As wimpy as it may sound, start walking as much as you can. McGill’s book discusses walking, and you might be tempted to dismiss it because it is so simple and cheap, but I think it’s about the best thing you can do when you have a lot of pain. I say a minimum of an hour a day, preferably first thing in the morning.

Ice the injured areas of your back after every workout or activity that stresses them.

You might want to try applying Zostrix HP exactly as directed on the package. Use gloves when you apply. Go easy at first. The capsaicin is very interesting as it seems to deplete Substance P, the pain neurotransmitter, and to cause cell death for the nerve cells that have gone haywire sending pain messages. I have had good results with it.

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[quote]Heart-n-Spine wrote:
Guys if you have time to give advice it would be greatly appreciated.

Lifted weights until I broke my back in 1989, weighed 185 fit and muscular at the time of the accident. 6ft tall lost down to 155 then gained up to 244. First fusion in 1990 with pedicle screws, screws failed to fuse me. Next fusion in 1995 with bone grafts, failed also. Heart attack in 2005, 95% blockage, fixed with a stent.[/quote]

Yikes! You have my sympathies. I have not experienced mechanical back issues (knock on wood), but the muscular ones I’ve endured have been awful.

I have a long story to tell, so I won’t. The Reader’s Digest version is that I got horribly crippled from arthritis (twisted grotesquely, then frozen), had experimental surgery to fix it and then did rehab from Hell to get over it. Life’s good now. I ended up having several features done on me and had a spread in the NY Times a couple of years ago as a result. I was a complete mess, so been there, done that.

Here are some thoughts you should consider.

  • You do not have the same body you had years ago. This one is quite different, don’t try to train it like the old one. So you will need to figure out how to train it for the first several months.

  • For cardio, learn how to swim (really important and it will take you 6 months to be able to do it well enough for a training effect - start now), elliptic trainer (best for non-impact cardio) bike, run, row, stair step, etc. That way if something goes hinky you can change up your workout without getting thrown completely off your cycle.

  • For weightlifting, aim for weekly totals in things. Be able to do bilateral and unilateral (especially unilateral) exercises. I found that biggest issues for having a reasonable training program were

  • neurological: muscles get stupid fast when in pain, then misfire. It takes many hundreds of reps to get past this. If you have been in chronic pain for years, the muscles will be disorganized, so be patient and be a stickler with form.

  • strength imbalances; strong side will do all the work or just injure the weak side

  • flexibility = how well the muscles move

  • mobility = how well the joints move

  • There is a book called “Magnificent Mobility” you might want to check out. You should also check out “Starting Strength” (at http://www.startingstrength.com/). The last book seems at first glance to be too simple. It just shows you how to squat, bench, deadlift and a few others. You want it for the commentary though, since the authors have many, many comments about training different people. It’s one of those books I kept going back to and it always seemed to answer my questions.

  • Get a trainer. No, not one of those trainers who have their own pink dumbbells, but someone who actually looks like they train. Failing that, befriend the local Hulk. You need eyes to watch you since you have probably lost both proprioception (knowing where your body is in relation to itself) and kinesthetic sense (knowing where it is in relation to the environment). In other words, you won’t probably have the “feel” for the exercises and might be doing them very lopsided. Another trained pair of eyes is essential.

I am unfamiliar with your specific limitations. Tell me more and maybe I can give less generic advice.

Best of Luck to you!!

– jj