T Nation

Becoming Awesome with a Herniated Disc

Coach Jim,
I really need your help! I am 17 years old and i herniated a disc at L4-L5 during an mma fight. I started lifting weights about six months ago but i had to stop the time i injured my low back (that was 3 months ago). Now i finished the rehab and i can start lifting and training again but the doctors said to me not to do squats, deadlifts and military press or anything that puts stress on the spine.

I want to become stupid big and strong in the next 3 years in order to become a better fighter. What lifts should i do if i can’t do the basics? I am seriously thinking of just ignoring the doctors advice…
I would be really greatfull if you or anyone could help!

I am not jim, but consider seeing a chiropractor. if there is a “the joint” near you, they are fairly inexpensive for weekly visits and you can try it out for a ~$20 session. Obviously not all practitioners are created equal, so YMMV. Mine is dope though; helped my wife start lifting again. also, pullups should be safe for you, so do a billion sets of a billion reps of those.

I’ve had a similar thing, herniated L5-S1.

What really made a difference was reverse hypers with bands. Dont know how but it worked like magic, and i still can play football now.

Thanks for your replies guys!
I have done rehab and i am not in pain now.
I can start training but my doctors said that i should never again load my spine like that…

[quote]P0SEID0N wrote:
I am 17 years old and i herniated a disc at L4-L5 during an mma fight. [/quote]

[quote]P0SEID0N wrote:
Thanks for your replies guys!
I have done rehab and i am not in pain now.
I can start training but my doctors said that i should never again load my spine like that…
[/quote]

I’m NOT a doc, nor did I play one on TV. Excuse my ignorance but how is injuring your back during a MMA fight and doing squats related? I have a buddy who had a similar thing happen. He rehabbed it and began using 5/3/1. Now he’s squatting /deadlifting in the upper 300’s, pressing bodyweight. His situation may or may not be totally similar but I remember him saying his doc told him similar stuff.

From my understanding of discs, which is very little BTW, but once it’s fucked up, it’s fucked up right? If you can live with the risk / pain, maybe in time you can ease back into things. I’m NOT advocating that you throw caution to the wind but we have to live our lives as we see fit right?

[quote]StrengthDawg wrote:

[quote]P0SEID0N wrote:
I am 17 years old and i herniated a disc at L4-L5 during an mma fight. [/quote]

[quote]P0SEID0N wrote:
Thanks for your replies guys!
I have done rehab and i am not in pain now.
I can start training but my doctors said that i should never again load my spine like that…
[/quote]

I’m NOT a doc, nor did I play one on TV. Excuse my ignorance but how is injuring your back during a MMA fight and doing squats related? I have a buddy who had a similar thing happen. He rehabbed it and began using 5/3/1. Now he’s squatting /deadlifting in the upper 300’s, pressing bodyweight. His situation may or may not be totally similar but I remember him saying his doc told him similar stuff.

From my understanding of discs, which is very little BTW, but once it’s fucked up, it’s fucked up right? If you can live with the risk / pain, maybe in time you can ease back into things. I’m NOT advocating that you throw caution to the wind but we have to live our lives as we see fit right? [/quote]

Man that’s exactly what i am thinking!

I just asked if there are any alternatives to the basics so i can play it safe and not make my condition worse.
But of course if there aren’t, i have no choice but to do squats, deads and everything and see what happens…

[quote]P0SEID0N wrote:

[quote]StrengthDawg wrote:

[quote]P0SEID0N wrote:
I am 17 years old and i herniated a disc at L4-L5 during an mma fight. [/quote]

[quote]P0SEID0N wrote:
Thanks for your replies guys!
I have done rehab and i am not in pain now.
I can start training but my doctors said that i should never again load my spine like that…
[/quote]

I’m NOT a doc, nor did I play one on TV. Excuse my ignorance but how is injuring your back during a MMA fight and doing squats related? I have a buddy who had a similar thing happen. He rehabbed it and began using 5/3/1. Now he’s squatting /deadlifting in the upper 300’s, pressing bodyweight. His situation may or may not be totally similar but I remember him saying his doc told him similar stuff.

From my understanding of discs, which is very little BTW, but once it’s fucked up, it’s fucked up right? If you can live with the risk / pain, maybe in time you can ease back into things. I’m NOT advocating that you throw caution to the wind but we have to live our lives as we see fit right? [/quote]

Man that’s exactly what i am thinking!

I just asked if there are any alternatives to the basics so i can play it safe and not make my condition worse.
But of course if there aren’t, i have no choice but to do squats, deads and everything and see what happens…
[/quote]

enthusiasm is great, but don’t be a dipshit ok… living the rest of your young life fucked up because you didn’t want to take a break and heal up is no bueno. I know your all “high speed, low drag” and burning the candle at both ends but I assure you, that stuff will catch up to you. Be SMART and EASE back in ok. I’ve been lifting for 25 years. Injuries suck and we naturally want to get back at it. Sometimes it’s better to just slow down and think things out. Besides there a saying with lifters that goes something like, welcome to being small / weak for the rest of your life, because no matter how much you lift or get big, it’s never strong or big enough…

Maybe try some leg presses. Yeah they aren’t manly as a squat but train what is trainable! Maybe try some belt squats.

[quote]StrengthDawg wrote:

enthusiasm is great, but don’t be a dipshit ok… living the rest of your young life fucked up because you didn’t want to take a break and heal up is no bueno. I know your all “high speed, low drag” and burning the candle at both ends but I assure you, that stuff will catch up to you. Be SMART and EASE back in ok. I’ve been lifting for 25 years. Injuries suck and we naturally want to get back at it. Sometimes it’s better to just slow down and think things out. Besides there a saying with lifters that goes something like, welcome to being small / weak for the rest of your life, because no matter how much you lift or get big, it’s never strong or big enough…

Maybe try some leg presses. Yeah they aren’t manly as a squat but train what is trainable! Maybe try some belt squats.
[/quote]

I hope the gym had a belt squat machine, i would seriously abuse it!!!

Ok i made a plan so i ll write it here and please tell me what you think.
For now i ll do Lunges, back raises, bench , chest supported dumbell rows, dips, chins and work on doing lying leg raises without my low back moving at all during the movement.
Once i do lunges with 180lbs x 5 reps per leg, back raises 90lbs x 30 reps and be able to do at least 20 good reps of lying leg raises i ll switch to more basic exercises but with caution.
The big 4 for me will be Sumo deadlifts , Front squats , Bench and Dips.
I ll work on them for about a year with 5/3/1 and after that try to replace them with Deads , Squats , Bench and Military Press.
Is that good or stupid?
Should i replace or add anything?

The spine is not something to fuck with. It holds every nerve that controls every part of the body. Arms, legs, breathing. I’m only 30 and have a pinched nerve in my neck. try sleeping three to for hours a night and see where your lifting and mma goes,. along with your job, health, and personal life… NOT COOL.

For the guy who doesn’t see a relationship between lifting and a herniated disk, don’t listen to that guy because you don’t need to be a doctor to see the bar sits on your spine and compresses the fuck out of it. both compressive, and sheer force. don’t ever listen to anyone that doesn’t posses even base levels of common sense. I’m not saying to never lift again, but contact a specialist, and make sure you know damn well what your doing to your body.

[quote]Mr.Selfdestruct wrote:
For the guy who doesn’t see a relationship between lifting and a herniated disk, don’t listen to that guy because you don’t need to be a doctor to see the bar sits on your spine and compresses the fuck out of it. both compressive, and sheer force. don’t ever listen to anyone that doesn’t posses even base levels of common sense. I’m not saying to never lift again, but contact a specialist, and make sure you know damn well what your doing to your body. [/quote]

I should let this go but I can’t… I didn’t say what you wrote.No shit the squat compresses the spine. So does picking up your kid, a bag of groceries everything. People squat 1200 pounds without blowing their backs up and people with disc issues still lift. I’m one of them so take your presumtuous attitde elsewhere. I also advised that the dude should ease back into training at some point and his doctor told him he could lift. His doc said to not load the spine “that way” again, to which I presumed it was in the context of MMA, since that’s how the injury occured. I then also suggested exercise that he could do that does NOT load the spine. I guess you didn’t catch those things when you appearantly glazed over this thread. Good day sir.

Becoming strong is a great help for a combat athlete.
Becoming big can be a huge disadvantage.

Prioritise.
Technique comes first.

"Excuse my ignorance but how is injuring your back during a MMA fight and doing squats related?"
Direct quote

[quote]StrengthDawg wrote:

[quote]Mr.Selfdestruct wrote:

His doc said to not load the spine “that way” again, to which I presumed it was in the context of MMA, since that’s how the injury occured. I then also suggested exercise that he could do that does NOT load the spine [/quote]

Guys sorry, my bad , i did not express what i wanted to say correctly and i did not give enough info about how the injury happened.

‘‘That way’’ i meant with squats, deads , military press etc.

The injury happened when i was struggling to get a double leg. I took part in an open weight tournament, i was 170 lbs and my opponent was 240, so i was not strong enough to maintain good form when he tried to sprawl, i rounded my back and there it happened. It is actually a right posterolateral disc herniation between L4-L5.

I felt a pop in my low back and pain radiating down to my right leg. It didn’t hurt that much during the fight but the day (and almost the whole week) after i could not walk.

The doctor said to not load my spine with putting weight on my back or over my head and to not lift anything heavy from the floor. He also said not to do any seated exercises.
After the doctor’s diagnosis and resting for some time i started physical therapy which was basically heat, massage, some strange electrical thing on my low back ,corrective exercises and stretching.

The therapist and the doctor told me i can now start training again but that i should never do what my doctor said the first time (squats etc).

[quote]donnydarkoirl wrote:
Becoming strong is a great help for a combat athlete.
Becoming big can be a huge disadvantage.

Prioritise.
Technique comes first.[/quote]

Thanks for your reply man!
I agree that technique comes first. My wrestling coach used to always preach to me the technique,tactics,strength thing!
But i don’t really believe in weight classes. I would prefer if everything was open weight haha!!!
I believe the bigger and stronger the better (without compromising technique of course)

I am much like a lot of other posts in here, don’t know jack about the spine. But you know how many of the BIG guys in the world have herniated discs. Just to name a couple have Donnie Thompson, the man would load is spine more then anyone in the world on 3 herniated discs. Derrick Pound stone has 2 and deadlifts 900 pounds. I am not saying be stupid but a herniated disc does by no means you can’t squat ever again.

I am much like a lot of teens out there and don’t give a shit about injuries and if I was in your situation the day I was cleared I’d be in the gym squatting. But again I am a really stupid teen so don’t take my advice. I haven’t read the entire thread so I don’t know the advice you are getting. But 1 thing to think about is you are 17 years old. You will heal even though discs are a permanent thing, who knows maybe in 6 months you could be in the gym doing some crazy shit and totally forget about the disc.

My advice looking from the outside, just kinda test yourself, go slow take things easy, trust your body, it will tell you if you can do those things. What I would do, like I said I would be in the gym now with 400 pounds on my back. Good Luck man.

I’m just getting over a herniation at L5-S1 with major sciatica pain. I’ve been training heavy again for 4 months and am 90% pain free.

The biggest thing is understanding what caused the herniation. In your case, and in most cases, flexion in the spine causes herniation. Loading your spine isnt a problem as long as your spine is stiff and does not bend. So the #1 goal is not to bend, while getting stronger. Your problem will heal as long as you dont keep hurting it, but you will have to be concious of it forever.

Instead of squatting, start with lunges or single leg squats or split squats or step ups. Then work your way back to squatting after you’ve become stronger, but only go as deep as you can while avoiding the butt wink or tuck under at the bottom. Never go so heavy that you start to turn the squat into a good morning. Front squats might work better for you.

Instead of deadlifts, do back raises. Again, only go through a range of motion that you can maintain an arched or neutral spine. Dont push it. Then move to trap bar deadlifts, or rack pulls. Dont pull from the floor if you cant get into position without rounding your back. Dont go super heavy or super fast.

Instead of pressing, incline bench is probably your best bet, though pressing isnt as bad if you are strict about it. It does compress the spine, but you will never go into flexion. Sometimes too much extension though can aggravate your issues.

In your every day life, never bend over to pick something up. You round your back when you do. Squat or lunge or single-leg good morning, or deadlift it up. Always be aware of what positon your back is in and never take it for granted. People throw their back out grabbing pencils all the time. Its not the weight, its the flexion.

Dont do sit-ups. Thats flexion. Same with hanging leg raises or most ab exercises. If you cant keep your lower back neutral, dont do them. Use an ab wheel, or hanging knee raises in a chair instead.

Get Dr. Stuart McGill’s book Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance. It can be heavy on the science talk, but it tells you exactly what to avoid and exactly how to strengthen your back and abs without risking your disc.

Ben Bruno here on T-Nation has a bunch of articles about back friendly alternatives to squatting and deadlifting. Tons of single leg ideas. Search the articles.

And check out Brian Carroll’s training log at EliteFTS. He went to Dr. McGill back in May and has been rehabbing multiple herniated discs and skeletal fractures in his spine and is almost ready to compete again. Read through his log. All of it.

Good luck.

PS AVOID FLEXING YOUR SPINE

Great answer Mac.

[quote]P0SEID0N wrote:
Coach Jim,
I really need your help! I am 17 years old and i herniated a disc at L4-L5 during an mma fight. I started lifting weights about six months ago but i had to stop the time i injured my low back (that was 3 months ago). Now i finished the rehab and i can start lifting and training again but the doctors said to me not to do squats, deadlifts and military press or anything that puts stress on the spine.

I want to become stupid big and strong in the next 3 years in order to become a better fighter. What lifts should i do if i can’t do the basics? I am seriously thinking of just ignoring the doctors advice…
I would be really greatfull if you or anyone could help![/quote]

It is impossible for a trained professional, let alone a person that won’t use his real name, to assess someone over the Internet. As has been pointed out, the back is nothing to dismiss and your best bet is finding and working with a doctor that is sympathetic to your cause and willing to work with you.
Good luck. Many of us have bad back problems and are able to train and work 100%. It’s hardly a death sentence.

"finding and working with a doctor that is sympathetic to your cause and willing to work with you."
This is key! You need a doctor that actually knows his way around a barbell. They are not common, but they exist. If you mention your location, maybe someone has a recommendation.

[quote]Jim Wendler wrote:

[quote]P0SEID0N wrote:
Coach Jim,
I really need your help! I am 17 years old and i herniated a disc at L4-L5 during an mma fight. I started lifting weights about six months ago but i had to stop the time i injured my low back (that was 3 months ago). Now i finished the rehab and i can start lifting and training again but the doctors said to me not to do squats, deadlifts and military press or anything that puts stress on the spine.

I want to become stupid big and strong in the next 3 years in order to become a better fighter. What lifts should i do if i can’t do the basics? I am seriously thinking of just ignoring the doctors advice…
I would be really greatfull if you or anyone could help![/quote]

It is impossible for a trained professional, let alone a person that won’t use his real name, to assess someone over the Internet. As has been pointed out, the back is nothing to dismiss and your best bet is finding and working with a doctor that is sympathetic to your cause and willing to work with you.
Good luck. Many of us have bad back problems and are able to train and work 100%. It’s hardly a death sentence.
[/quote]

Coach Jim thanks a lot for your reply.

I hate to say this here but if i could afford a doctor again i would not create this thread…

I know its not responsible to give advice to someone without knowing him but could you please at least tell us about your back problems what you do/did about them and how you manage to train with them?