T Nation

Bad Back from Lifting?

I’m 35 years old, 245lbs.and have been training for 23 yrs. About 3 years ago I used to routinely dealift 600lb+ squat 550lb+ all raw. But I had to stop because I would feel audible snaps and pops in my lower back. My lower back would hurt for a week or more, but I’d recover and I’d go back to heavy lifting again.

Now it seems I have a permanent ache and stiffness in my lower back. I think it’s my sacral-illiac joint, and some of the problem comes from the fact that I stand around a lot at my job. I take omega-3 fatty acids and stretch a lot. I was told to start focusing on strengthening my core, which has helped a lot. I also think my body weight is too heavy for my frame.

Genetically I’m not meant to be this heavy, but with the use of anabolics I’ve added considerable weight to my frame-perhaps to my detriment.

A few thoughts here…

I’m 35 also. I haven’t lifted as long as you- less than 10 years here. I have had recurring problems with my left glute and lower back in that last few years. After a lot of trial and error and conflicting diagnoses from chiros, PTs, docs and training partners, it seems like my problem is also in the SI joint. According to soem stuff I’ve read, theSIU joint become less mobile in many people in their 30s/40s. This roughly correspeonds to a phenomenon I’ve noticed among a lot of guys with big squats and pulls- guys with no history of back pain or injury suddenly having having lower back problems in their late 30s. Here are some things that have helped me:

SI joint and hip joint stretching
Rolling (ball and foam)
Long warm ups
Reverse hypers
Psoas pressure point stuff

Chiropractic adjustment, massage, and ultrasound have also provided relief from pain but have not really helped with getting me back in the gym.

I find that any exercise that tractions my back feels better than exercises that compresses it. Good mornings are great, deadlifts are alright, but heavy squats can be tough. As much as I beleive that box squatting is a great training tool, I have sadly had to abandon it. No matter how careful I am, I invariabley end up too sore to train for weeks after a heavy box session. I find myself doinga lot more pull-ups instead of barbell rows for my back-work. Also for higher rep accessory work, pull throughs, seated good mornings and hyperextensions all feel real good

Pinto brings up some great points.

I have never had a low back injury (knock on wood) but have royally fouled up my SI joint a couple times to the point it took me 10 minutes to get out of bed in the morning and I was even more irritable than normal because of the pain I was in.

A couple things that really help are as follows.

  1. Give it time to heal.

The old if you do something and it hurts worse, stop doing it. If it just aches it’s probably OK but monitor training load carefully because you need to make sure you are adequately recovering.

  1. Wall sits.

These are a bitch but Dennis Koslowski, who is an ART practicioner in the Twin Cities and is/was the Vikings team doctor; is also a 3 or 4 time HW Greco Roman Olympic medalist and National Champion (in other words this guy has beaten the shit out of his body) showed me these when I first got hurt as his SI has always been problematic.

Anyway, all you do is sit on the floor with your feet straight out in front of you (no bend in the knees_. Your feet should be as close to touching as possible and your back should be against the wall. Basically you want to sit like this with your hips as close to the wall as possible for as long as it takes to loosen up. At first, these will likely be excruciating and you won’t be able to get closer than 3-4 inches from the wall and won’t be able to tolerate it for very long. Over time, you should be able to build up to having a pillow under our feet.

  1. ART on the psoas muscles. This is probably the most uncomfortable thing I do (it hurts like hell and they end up doing ART basically with their hands in your underware) but it is by far the best thing because it allows your hips to track more naturally without getting bound up because of adhesions, etc.

  2. Good old fashioned reverse hypers.

  3. Working 45 degree hypers where you basically set up so that you can bend at the hips. What you want to do is force your chest up on the descent and really focus on keeping your arch as you bend at your hips. As soon as you lose your arch pull yourself back up chest high squeezing your ass. 3 sets 15-20 reps non weighted.

What this will do is help build static strength in the erectors, build hamstring and glute flexibility (I am convinced poor hamstring flexibility contributes to lumbar rounding) and will teach you to feel when you are losing your arch and become self correcting.

  1. Also, the lower body stretches in the article below, in particular the hip flexor/quad stretches I feel have helped me a lot. I think this is a great post workout stretching routine.

Bottom line, get your psoas released as soon as possible, do the wall sits 2X per day and work real hard on hamstring flexibility and static strength/work capacity/postural awareness in the erectors.

See a professional, dont get interwebz diagnosis.

Nobody is diagnosing him there, sparky. We are responding to what he perceives to be the problem.

I had some SI issues too and sought help from a Chiro and a Massage Therapist, although I saw a PT for the intial months.

The biggest and hardest thing I changed was my posture.

I guess what I felt did the best to reduce aching was the following (on top of seeking the best professional advice):

Making sure of the following:

  • my weight is placed evenly on each feet when standing
  • my weight was placed evenly on my ass cheeks when sitting
  • my knees pointed the same direction when sleeping
  • car seat is adjusted close enough to steering wheel so hips are even

From onset I had to stop squatting and deadlifting.

I hope your injury heals quick man.

[quote]Boffin wrote:
See a professional, dont get interwebz diagnosis.[/quote]

Good luck.

Advice from an MD general pratitioner: quit lifting and take these (some weird muscle relaxer that did nothing to mitigate pain- but did a lot to mitigate morning wood)

Advice from a DO “sports medicine” specialist: quit lifting heavy and take these (good old Tylenol 3 with codeine- they go great with Guinness)

Advice from a massage therapist: come back soon!

Advice from a chiro/massage therapist: stretch and use foam roller (OK- now were getting somewhere)

Advice from a frequntly injured training partner: use a baseball or a broomstick to bust up scar tissue in your glutes (this helps sometimes)

Advice from an even more frequestly injured traiinign partner: do light goodmornings (this helped)

Advice from the man himself, Louie Simmons: Do reverse hypers and get your hip flexors dug out. (this helped alot)

What I see here is a trend of increasing effectiveness as I went from main-line professionals to alternative professionals to guys that have actually dealt with the same problem and licked it. Considering how prevalent low-back pain is, the mainstream medical community seems to have no tools in its kit to address this matter other than with drugs and surgery.

Exactly. One of our college kids hurt his SI last month and he was told he might be out for 3-4 months. Honestly, they didn’t even diagnose it correctly referring to it as an L1.

Literally the minute he was back in town we had him training, sent him up to see Koslowski, and kicked him in the ass for not telling us sooner.

He basically needlessly took a step back in his base strength level due to inactivity. If anything it made him worse because now his work capacity has taken a hit, as well.

It’s like I told him, nothing gets better sittin’ around.

washed up meatheads

just kidding, but like the say you got to be able to walk the walk in order to talk the talk,

and doctors dont deal with these problems or situtaions in med school, they deal with what fucking med should be given when a patient codes or what med interfers with the patients current meds, and what cardio or pulmanory problems this patient have, i really dont know any doctors who even remember how to treat a sprain, all that happens now when you go to the doctor is a referral to a specialist

what does dig out your hip flexors mean.

also, front squats did wonders for my core strength and keeping my back from rounding. used a safty squat bar if you have one, saves the shoulders completely

[quote]schultzie wrote:
what does dig out your hip flexors mean.

[/quote]

Pressure applied to your psoas and some related musculature. These muscles get tight and contribute to malfunction of the SI joint. I haven’t had the professioanl job done. I went DIY and found a how-to video on youtube. (There are how-to vids on YT on everything from bleeding your brakes to making a potato gun- a powerful information resource.) It was pretty uncomfortable like most release techniques. I’m sure a pro can do it better, but i got a lot of relief from digging into my own guts.

Next time, I’ll probably hire a pro. But as apw said, it’s a very “personal” procedure. So that begs the dilemna of do you get a guy to do it and have some dude vigorously fiddling around next to your junk (which is awkward for you) or do you get a senorita to vigorously fiddle around next to your junk, potentially leading to springage (which will be awkward for her).

foam rolling my erectors and lumbar region helped with some lower back pain i had.

Pinto is that the DeFranco video on psoas self myofascial release?

[quote]schultzie wrote:
Pinto is that the DeFranco video on psoas self myofascial release?[/quote]

No. I don’t think it was.

Thanks for all the responses. The suggestions are helpful, just like the advice I get from people in the gym. Sadly, I can’t “go see a doctor” every time I feel an ache or pain. I don’t have insurance, or thousands of dollars for doctors who don’t give a shit about my problem and just write a prescription for anti-inflammatories.