T Nation

Deadlifting Injury: Bulged Disc

My doctor just diagnosed me with a bulging disc in my lower back. The injury occurred on a max effort deadlift. My form got sloppy on the grind just above the knees. My doctor thinks it will be 4-6 weeks before I start lifting heavy again.

So far my rehab consists of maintaining the curvature in my lower back with perfect posture and keeping a cushion on my lower back when sitting. He also has me doing “lying down back extensions”.

Has anybody else experienced a similar injury? Was your rehab similar to mine? How long did it take you to recover? Thanks in advance.

Yes sir, I have experienced a similar injury, and I really can sympathize. It’s very painful, and if you’re anything like me, you are probably wondering if you will ever be able to deadlift again.

The good news is yes, you will. I bulged my L-4 and L-5 while doing deadlifts about five years ago. (I got sloppy with form while bringing the weight back to the floor.) I still deadlift, squat, power clean, power snatch, etc. to this day, so don’t worry.

That being said, you must take things SLOWLY. I found that a good chiropractor, along with proper physical therapy, helped dramatically. Be advised, though, that a lot of doctors will advise you to stop deadlifting.

Being stubborn, I declined that option. You are going to have to lay off D/L’s for about zix to eight weeks. When you do start again, go light. Concentrate on form, and over time, increase the reps. Light sets of ten reps are going to do more for your body repair-wise than going heavy right away.
Make sure you warm the area up with some hyperextensions and reverse hypers performed with no weight, at first.
After another month or two, you can probably start working your way to putting more weight on the bar.

If at any time, you feel that same pain that you felt when you first hurt your back, STOP RIGHT THERE. Put the weight down and leave the gym. DO NOT try to finish your workout. Go see your chiropractor immediately.
The key to coming back from this injury is leaving your ego at the door for the first few months, and doing what is best for your body. Leave the big numbers for another time.

I relate these tips to you from experience, having re-injured the same site twice. Got it right the third time.
Good luck, and sorry about your back. I know it hurts like a bitch.

Thanks for the tips! It’s good to hear that you returned to heavy deadlifting and olympic lifts.

How long after your injury did you wait before returning to regular lifting (not including deads). What about squats?

had a very similar injury almost a year ago. i took me 2 weeks of not being able to lied down to see a doc ant then i started physiotherapy. worked like a charm. after just a month of self physiotherapy in the morning the pain was gone.

even tho the doc said not to do any squats at the time i didnt listen to him (her) as it didnt hurt that much (then i would go home and try to drop into bed with as little pain as possible). i guess thats the reason i still have that “feeling” in the lower back.

squatting my records but have a slight mental block on Deadlift now tho they have improved too.

and thats not the only injury i had from a deadlift … bad technique and too much weight …

even tho it is very painful it will pass. physiotherapy did wonders to me.
i was unable to lie down, standing on all four in the middle of the bed at one time and can squat 50kilos more than half year ago when that happened. heck i’m doing goodmornings with the weight i deadlifed back then :wink:

I think I got back to lifting after about 4 weeks. Maybe 6. I was able to do most of the upper body lifts I had been doing prior to the injury. Be cautious with the military press, if you do those. I do them standing, and I don’t use a belt, but you may want to use one for the first few weeks.
Same with squats. I was able to do them, but I kept the weight light and used a belt if I felt my back starting to fatigue. Be careful though, cos the third time I goofed, it was while doing squats, not D/L’s. Went too heavy, too quickly.
One other thing I forgot to mention. For a lot of my deadlifting now, I use a trap/shrug bar. I realize there are some deadlifting purists out there who will disagree with me on that point, and I would have agreed with them at first. However, I came to the realization that I am not a competitive powerlifter, and I can reap the same benefits from the lift without the same risk of injury. So, why not?
That’s a personal choice, however. If you are a competitive powerlifter, or a D/L purist, then continue with the straight bar.

I’m definately interested in trap bar deadlifts. The problem is, there aren’t any gyms in my area that have a trap bar. I ask the manager of my gym about buying a trap bar in the summer but he didn’t have a clue what it was. Again thanks for the advice and positive attitude.

Wow, this is all so hopeful. I am on my 7th day post injury and wondering what is going to happen. I see the doctor tomorrow, hope its not drastic. I am going stir crazy laying around and doing recovery excercises. The pain is subsiding but I still cant be up that long.

At least ti sounds like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Ah yes…those couple days I spent laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, wondering if I was going to walk upright again, never mind deadlift…
Lots of time for introspection and reading, however.

As I said, I found that a good chiropractor was the best solution for me. Before my injury, I would have told you that they were all a bunch of quacks. Not anymore. I was pretty adamant that I was not going to just medicate myself out of the situation, and my girlfriend’s dad convinced me to go see his chiro.

Changed my life. I kid you not.
As for finding a trap bar, I never had much luck in any commercial gym I went to, or the gym at my department’s academy. So, I just set up my own gym at home, and ordered a trap bar. I personally think it’s one of the finest pieces of equipment I own.

Back in 1999, I herniated L5-S1 deadlifting. I was going to have surgery but there was a month’s wait from the doctor appt to the surgery.

In that time, I stayed off my feet as much as possible and did as many exercises as I could that took the load off my spine. I did lots of pullups and dips and often just hung from the bar or held my self at the top of the dip for extended periods of time. When I went in for surgery, I had recovered enough that the doc wouldn’t operate.

I made a full recovery and I still dead and squat too. I made sure to work on my flexibility and work on my abs. My DL is now by and far my best lift. I had a discectomy in 1993 at L4-L5 because I didn’t know any better. Had I known then… It can be overcome but it will take time.

I did the same thing a year ago (same disc as well). I’ve not been able to deadlift since and had to stop judo and rowing. I’ve recently been able to start squatting again and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to start light deadlifts again before too long.


Look at doing belt squats to keep the load off your back for awhile.

Two discs displaced in T9 and T5. I woke up and thought I was paralyzed. I felt no pain at the time of the injury, the next day is when it hit. I was doing chest supported rows with far too much weight and just heaving the weight up.

After 3 months of no lifting I still experienced a lot of pain. Physical therapy made it worse so I decided to start lifting.

After a month of lifting it seemed to help with the pain to a point. I still experience pain that wraps around my body and always right below my neck. I’m horrible with waiting.

It’s been roughly 6 months and I still have chronic irritation.

I can lift as heavy as I want but squats seem to hurt the most. The compression on the spine is the problem with them. If you have too much pain with squats try doing front squats, they but a lot less compression on your spine.

Bob: I’ve not got a weights belt yet, or any way I can think of to do belt squats. I started front squatting again a couple of weeks ago, and in my last session worked up to a single at 115kg then a bunch of singles at 110kg. My back felt a bit sore the next day, and was a bit crunchy, but there was no stabby pain, so I think I should be okay. For reference, I was back squatting 170kg for singles before injuring my back, so 115kg is still moderately heavy relative to my pre-injury strength.

I have 3 buldged discs and don’t really feel any pain. I felt pain for one time witch caused me to go to the hospital and that’s when I got a CT scan and found out about the buldged discs. So what I’m wondering is… If I don’t feel pain is it still ok to deadlift, squat, and Bench? I have my first power lifting comp in July 9th. I’m doing light weight right now and plan to do light weight for the comp.

According to Stuart McGill, herniated discs can still tolerate compressive loading, but loaded flexion is not safe. If you deadlift with a rounded back then you have an extremely high chance of further injury.

How long ago did you injure your back? Herniated discs can potentially heal in a few weeks. If you are going to set a record or win something then you could say it’s worth the risk, but if not you might be better off skipping the meet.

I injured my back about a month ago.

Ya I think that would be a good idea for me to just not do the comp. It just really sucks because I’ve been training so hard for this. Lost alot of weight and fell in love with lifting. But I’ll just have to suck it up get better and then rock the next one. Thank you.

My first post here…
One week ago I was deadlifting 160kg and on the second set on the 8th rep I just felt that something wasn’t right at my lower back…I had put the bar back to cage and it felt horrible…I was warmed up as I have done 4 sets of 170kg 20reps of squat and 4 sets of 110kg of front squat before the deadlift and injury…I could have made my session till the end but as I had a couple of operations for other parts of the body till now,I got used that you just need to leave doing what hurts at the time of pain and go for the PRICE principle…I had felt that my back was stiff almost a week before the injury,but telling myself it is just a temporarily weak point as I was on strict diet…also 160kg of deadlift wasn’t something heavy as I have done 200kg for 20reps w/o a problem in the past (I’m 175cm,108kg and lifting for 20years,naturally…and got 25kg of pure fat in last 2 years while renovating a house)…

At the night of injury (it was 10:30pm), I just went home and took a warm shower and told myself the morning will uncover the real consequences (in the gym first reaction was if I’m able to move my legs and if I have some strange neurotic showers in my legs,went to toilet if I can control water and mud…everything ok)…the next morning was like waking up from the death…pain all over my lower back,could get my underwear to place,socks were mission impossible…I tried to call my doc and the line was busy all the time…called ER and they agreed to come in and make xray if something was broken or disk was misplaced as I was walking around like a penguin…so,all test were negative and I was sent home with some pain killers… I’m really not into medicines and all the medical stuff,so I suffer without it and dealing with pain…going to the toilet was hard for first two days and also sitting at work,but after a week I’m doing great…i did some supermans on the ground (hyperext),some knee to chest stretching,some janda situps and so far, so good…tomorrow I need to install some servers in the rack and that will be the breaking point:)

All post are really encouraging for someone with back problems to come back…i plan to do some trx exercises at home for this week with a lot of stretching,some single leg deadlifts and try to heal myself in next two weeks…maybe some unilateral work will get handy in this days…

Happened to me and had a pinched sciatic nerve. I rounded my back while deadlifting. Surprisingly what helped was doing light weight deadlifts.