Bulging Disc L5/S1 Severe Pain.. Clueless

I just turned 18 and been having back pain for 1.5 years now. Terrible experience, been through depression and stopped going to college because of the pain lots of bad stuff.

I’ll try to sum up what I’ve already done to try and fix it and hope something can help with something.

  • Physical therapist (8 months, massaged me told me to rest and do light and cardio no help)

  • Chiropractor (went to 4 appointments, he cracked my back for like 5 mins then told me to go home and come back again in a few days. Each appointment costed $70 and my insurance didn’t cover it so after 4 appointments I had no improvement at all and was down $280 in cash. As a 17yr old student I couldn’t afford to lose more he told me by the 6th appointment I would be pain-free had no trust at all and quit

  • Physical therapist 2 (This one was good, didn’t want me to come often because he couldn’t do much for me and basically told me to watch my posture and do lots of core stuff for the TVA muscle. I had a lot of hope in his program basically doing a lot of core exercises close to everyday, but after 6 months still no improvement at all)

I’m kinda down and out don’t know where to head with my lower back rehab and especially my life because it really has affected everything. I’m back in college but have lost touch with alot of my close friends because now they are a year ahead of me and i’m not going to many classes because of my lower back pain. I just want to get rid this of lower back pain and sort the rest out it’s by far the biggest obstacle ever in my life.

(I’ve attached some MRI images and tried to keep it as short as possible, I have posted on a lot of back pain forums and some fitness forums but I came across T-Nation and saw a lot of back pain topics and threads)

i have pretty much same problem at the moment but mine has been healing slowly since i did it about 5- 6 weeks ago.
things that helped me

  • electro therapy
  • deep tissue massage
  • i stretch my back twice a day once in the morning as soon as i get up and then once in the afternoon after i have hit the gym
  • in the gym i stopped doing heavy deads and heavy squats ( i got the injury squatting)
  • i do back exercises every other day weighted back extensions, weighted good mornings, light dead lifts and i also find that hip thrusters help alot and also core strength exercises hanging leg raises planking fit ball sit ups

I am not sure if i will ever be able to hit heavy deads and squats again but i am still making gains in the gym and my pain is slowly goin away.

the way i see it is if i strengthen everything around my spine and all the muscle grows around it (not just prime movers im talking all the erectors and the muscle you cant see on the outside) then my back should have pleanty of support to heal quicker and get back to normal if not better!

Hey buddy, hear me out on this. You’re not alone.

I’m 20 years old right now. I started hitting weights hard when I was 18. I saw some incredible gains in a relatively short amount of time, I gained all this lean muscle, but the entire time I was feeling this stubborn pain in my low back. I kept pushing through it for months and definitely got stronger, but eventually I decided what I was doing was not going to be optimal in the long run, so I shut everything down. I stopped squatting and deadlifting, and also had to stop pressing and what not because of a shoulder misalignment/imbalance issue that was putting stress on the shoulder joint.

It was fucking brutal. I lost all of that strength that I had built up and being that I’m a naturally thin person I was back down about 10 lbs from what I was. I got some MRIs done on my lumbar spine and there ended up being a slight herniation of L5/S1 as well as a low-level pars interarticularis fracture.

With this diagnosis, I went to a bunch of therapists as well as some well-renowned doctors. None of them really gave me much that would help.

I then went to see an affiliate of Dr. Stuart McGill, which if you don’t know who that is, he is essentially the God of the Human Spine. He laid everything out for me, told me I would need to rest, and told me I would need to strengthen and reprogram my motor skills to be able to protect my lower back.

I took all of his advice, followed it religiously. To give you a timeline breakdown, started it in January of this year. All I did for the first months was core strengthening (and not your typical “6 pack abs” workout; I worked on getting my deep core muscles strong and firing to firm up to protect my spine). I honestly didn’t actively feel too much improvement at first.

I started hitting the gym again in late March and did mostly high rep bodyweight stuff and actually squatted light weights too. I slowly worked up to about a 150 lb squat, then transferred to a periodization program by the time June rolled around. I again followed this program religiously while still doing the exercises for core strength almost daily. I was squatting, deadlifting, benching, pressing once a week respectively.

Right now, its November, I’m squatting 265 lbs 5x5 with no low back pain. It’s all about retraining your body to move efficiently. This proved to me that even if an injury is relatively severe, if muscles are engaged and working properly, you can overcome any kind of pain. You have to let the muscles do the work and not the joints. Specifically, if we’re talking L5/S1, I had to teach myself to protect my spine, specifically prevent any kind of flexion in squat (butt wink).

It wasn’t easy. It takes a lot of mental wherewithal and focus to change your motor patterns. But it’s a necessity, with any injury.

Just don’t lose hope my friend. And I know it’s easier said than done, but figure out a way to disassociate your identity with your physical ability or your pain. Branch out and do stuff with your life. Any injury like this will take time to get over, don’t let yourself go crazy in the meantime. Live and love the world around you. There’s more to it than pain. I know how much this sucks dude, trust me, I was depressed as well about it. It actually made me make some significant changes in my life. But I think when things started to get better most is when I detached my sense of worth with how able I am. That is just one piece of me. There is so much more to it than that.

Good luck with everything. Strengthen your core. You will be okay eventually, just don’t stop learning and don’t stop trying, and most importantly, don’t stop living.

hey 2bmc, who and where was this affiliate of stuart mcgill?

Hey man I have the same issue, could you provide me with the types of exercises he had you doing? Thanks alot

trigger point therapy helps. a lot of the pain and spasms come from myofacial trigger points. the disc problems are the root but the pain is comming from the nerves and treating the trigger points can reduce pain. it helped a lot with me. so did lots of core work and standing as often as possible. someone here told me “rest is for the flu”. obviously you need to take days off from heavy exercise but you should try and stand as much as the day as possible, with good posture. chairs are like cigarettes for the back, they might feel good but they are bad for your posture. i had problems in my t spine so i dont have too much perspective but i know trigger point injections or dry needling would help with the pain. and getting as strong as possible without “locking up” your spine or “throwing it out” or whatever term you use. Training will have some inherent discomfort but you can not train to failure or your muscles might lock up. do your dead bugs, bird dogs, pallof press, and plank rotations.