Chronic TL Junction Pain

Hi all,

I sustained an injury at the TL junction of my back more than 4 months ago. I was trap bar deadlifting with a hard arch in my back, and my first two warmup reps hurt. I had never injured myself and I decided to push through the pain. On my third rep, after the bar cleard my knees, I felt a ripping-type feeling right in the TL junction and shooting pain. I dropped the weight, and over the course of the evening the pain got worse and worse. I could flex over but as soon as I began extending my back that shooting, intense pain would come back. I needed help getting out of bed the next morning as I couldn’t sit up or even roll over without assistance.

I never saw a doctor, but a physical therapist at the gym told me he suspected it was a herniated disc and that it would take a few months to reabsorb. I worked out sporadically for the first few months after the everyday pain subsided, but the injury spot would always ache after. This was even true after workout that didn’t compress the spine at all. I tried doing a workout of dips, unweighted chins, inverse rows and bodyweight squats, but the pain (although much less intense) would always return.

Finally I gave up and quit altogether for 2 months. I waited until I was completely pain free in all ranges of motion before doing anything strenuous. I went to a back doctor and was x-rayed. He said spacing between vertebrae appeared normal and that structurally, as far as he could see, I was good to start lifting again. I have been deadlifting again, very light sessions with 135 pounds. After these sessions I get that same pain in the same spot, combined with pronounced stiffness. I don’t experience pain while deadlifting, and for the most part don’t notice it the next day either. It is at its worst on the second day post-lifting, when I wake up in the morning.

I’m very frustrated because I’ve been more or less resting this for 4 months and have lost lots of mass and strength. After all this time I expected to be structurally sound, but I’m clearly not. Does anyone have any insight on this? Is it likely muscular? My thought is that maybe I strained the bejesus out of a muscle in my back and that I’ll need to continue light sessions to rehab/strengthen it to post-injury levels, but I honestly have no idea. Anyone with experience with TL junction pain or medical knowledge would be greatly appreciated. I’m at a loss here.