T Nation

Back Pain: Just Another Day

Here’s the deal:

  1. The pain began about a year ago.

  2. I was doing bent barbell rows, legs slightly bent, back as close to horizontal as I could, which might have been 10-15% incline? Guessing. I worked up to my max working weight of 135, doing sets of 5, ramping up from an empty bar. On my first rep of my second set at 135, I pulled to the chest fine, but then lowered it too fast. At the bottom of the pull, I immediately felt the worst pain possible and it felt like something tore. I dropped the weight, sat down for 10 minutes, put the weights away and went home in a panic. Rested that day, went to medical the next.

  3. The pain is directly centered on my lower lumbar spine.

  4. It does not radiate up or down my legs, it stays very local. Once aggravated, it is constantly throbbing, with very sharp, seizing pain upon flexion.

  5. Normally, there is no pain, just a very subtle awareness that I have a lower back. May sound weird, but I never used to be conscious of my back, it just worked and I felt it when it was tired or sore. Now I notice it just existing.

  6. Carrying people in the fireman’s carry was the last thing that hurt it. Before that it was squats. Surprisingly, deadlifts have never hurt.

  7. Waiting a few days, laid up and resting. Ice didn’t do much, heat was a little better. I haven’t been very diligent about the few rehab exercises the Navy Corpsman suggested.

  8. I can’t tie my shoes without thinking about hurting my back again. Every time I put my pack on, I fear the outcome. Sadly, I’m too scared of barbell rows to try them anymore. I love dumbbell rows, and usually support myself with my opposite arm during the exercise.

  9. I don’t want it to jeopardize my career in the Marines, and I don’t want it to affect my quality of life. I enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle and want to maintain that for many years to come.

  10. Before the initial injury last year, I never had any pain in my back and basically considered it invincible like an idiot.

  11. The pain isn’t getting worse, it’s only been around 3 times in the last year that it started hurting again. But that’s 3 times too many for me.

Any suggestions would be amazing. Thanks in advance for any assistance in this matter. Semper Fidelis.

Respectfully sent,
Sergeant AceRock, USMC

First thing, if you feel any numbness or tingling in your feet/toes, or if you ever lose bladder/bowel control, go to a doctor immediately. It means you probably have a spinal injury and nerve damage. You’ll need an MRI to fuly diagnose that.

Otherwise, your injury sounds kind of similar to mine, except I did mine during squats. The doctor thought I might have compressed a disc in my back, but they couldn’t say for sure. So they didn’t really say much except to stop lifting heavy weights. What did your doctor suggest?

For my back I just had to lower the weights and gradually build back into it. At first I wasn’t doing squats or deadlifts and did supermans. Then I started doing goblet squats and good mornings (only 28lbs at first, which despite being so light was a challenge with a recovering injury). That built up to front squats and deadlifts, and then eventually back squats. I think good mornings were probably the most helpful exercise for me to recover. You need to be patient and start light. Some people don’t want to go light because their egos get in the way, but that’s the nature of rehab.

Eventually when my back muscles got strong enough, my back stopped hurting. Now I don’t feel pain anymore except for days when my muscles are sore/tired, or if I’m not stretching my legs enough. It’ll never go away completely, but you can compensate for it with strengthening and proper form/posture.

If you’re interested in looking into it, Travis Ortmayer had a similar injury too, and Derek Poundstone had a herniated disc. Both recovered to compete in worlds again. In an interview Poundstone said that he still feels it in high reps or when he twists a certain way, but he found a way to work with it.

NOt much to say but you should probably work with a osteopath / sports therapist / physio.

I’ve dealt with a couple of instances of back issues. The first one I did a minor tear in the lumbar erectors with crappy deadlifting (didnt feel minor though!)

The second time which was recently I over worked it and caused some sort of problem.

A few things that have helped me:

  1. Avoid sitting for extended periods of time.
  2. good mobility work for hips
  3. Squat (even just body weight) every day.
  4. If you want to use weighted squats start with goblet and then move to front / high bar…you need to reduce lower back involvement.

I havent really gone back to heavy deadlifts yet (im building back up) after this second time around, but I certainly dont have the same tightness or issues with it.

At the moment I’ve used this time quite effectively.

  • Im improving my squatting. I can low bar now and hit a PR with it the other day
  • use double over grip rack pulls to build my grip strength (limits the weight I can use)
  • I use heavy power shrugs with straps to get the trap work in.
  • I use rounded back hyperextensions to build up the strength in the erectors.

Dont know if this is any use but thats what ive found.