T Nation

Disc Injury

I just receivced the news that I have 3-4 “protruding discs”.

Mentally I am crushed. There is not alot of positive information on the web regarding this type of injury. I was wondering if there are any T-Men out there who have come back from a disc injury?

If you know of any good doctors or have positive experiences in dealing with a disc injury I’d appreciate hearing from you.

Feel free to contact me personally if you don’t want to make a public post.

Could you elaborate on the diagnosis? What was the perscription (rest, PT, surgery)? Do you know which discs? I’ve recovered from a disc surgery (L-5), but I would not pursue surgery as my first option.
old dogg

I had an intermittent back problem from ~20 years (It would flair up and I?d rehab it and it would get better) with sometimes years between episodes. Last January, I slipped getting out of the shower and re-injured my back. This time it hurt a lot worse and took a lot longer to get better. As soon as all the pain was gone and I was feeling normal, I woke up with a pain shooting down the outside of my right leg, numbness down my shin and right foot. I went through 3 rounds of oral cortisone (with significant but not complete relief) with my GP and then had a MRI. It showed that my L5 disc was bulging (radiologist term) /ruptured (Orthopedic Surgeon term for significant protrusion). My Orthopedic surgeon utilized a conservative treatment where he schedules the same rest and rehab as if you had surgery (but without surgery)and in most cases produces very good results. During this time I had two epidermal cortisone injections. The bottom line was that after all this I ended up with a slightly weaker right big toe. My GP advised me that I need to keep gut in check, make core training a daily part of my life, and avoid jarring activities (i.e. skydiving). Also, he told me that I would periodically probably do something that would aggravate it. He also said that it was okay to do any ?normal? weightlifting. That?s my story in nutshell.

You didn?t mention what symptoms you where having. The feel I got from my doctor was that surgery should be avoided unless it was causing problems with mobility, asymmetrical atrophy, constant pain, loss of control of bodily functions, or affecting sexual function. As far as training is concerned heavy back squats and deadlifts are out for me, but there are plenty of single leg exercises that I can heavy on. Also, I?m getting ready to buy a hip squat belt from Ironmind.

If have questions, feel free to contact me directly.


Look up Westside for why they made the reverse hyper machine. If I remember correctly someone used it to put their back in traction. When loaded high enough they were able to get their back to heal.

I have L4/L5 disc herniations. They were a real bitch at first…totally ruined my progress in the gym. My Dr. told me to stop working out…especially exercises that compress the spine ie: squats, deadlifts, military presses, etc…my physical therapist was a joke…did nothing for me. My cousin is a chiropractor so he adjusted me a couple of times a week but I was still in a lot of pain…

Anyway, I was a mess for about 6 months where I was in so much pain I couldn’t do anything…so I just did machines and bootleg workouts. I ended up gaining about 30 pounds of fat and lost considerable muscle. At this point in time I was on suicide watch since I looked like shit and was still in pain.

On New Years of 2004, 6 months after I was diagnosed with the herniations, I decided to screw the Dr’s advice and get back to my normal workouts. I started really light doing reverse hypers, hyper extensions, some stablization work on a swissball (i think they are called see-saws or planks…can’t remember), deadlifts. I tried squatting but that hurt way too much so I don’t squat anymore…

Anyway after about 1 month of doing my normal workouts…starting real light and slowly adding weight each workout, I started feeling better. My back felt great! I had my bad days where I was in some pain so I took a couple of days off til I felt better or I avoided exercises that aggrevated my back. But within 2 months I was back up to my normal deadlifting weight, My back felt great and I lost all my fat and gained all my muscle back.

So my advice to you is when the overall pain fades where you can function, get back into the gym and start working out again. Concentrate on reverse hypers, hyperextensions, swiss ball work, abs, wood choppers, deadlifts, overhead squats (for some reason I can’t do regular squats anymore but overhead sqats feel fine). Start light and keep increasing the weight. If you have a bad day where you are in pain…back off a couple of days til you feel better and then get back right on the horse again. After a while, you will feel much better than you would ever imagine and you will be stronger to boot.

Once you strengthen the muscles around the discs, it keeps them more protected and you will have less pain. You will have your bad days here and there…I still have them, but all-in-all I am much better off now then I was sitting on my ass letting my body deteriorate!

Hope this helps…

Sorry for the delay in responding. We had a big snowstorm in the Northeast and I was without power most of the weekend.

The saga continues…

After the crushing news about the damaged discs, I went to Gray’s Anatomy online and checked out the damaged areas. The MRI report said I had two “slightly protruding” discs between t4-t5 and t7-t8. That’s in my mid back! It makes sense though I did have discomfort from squatting, overhead presses, and some numbness in my hands from jet skiing or biking for long time. However these would have been old injuries. I was glad to know about them before I really screwed myself up but I told my doctor I had low back pain. I lifted a motorcycle to move it out of a parking space and felt an acute pain above my righ hip, just on the outside of my back. It hurt so bad I couldn’t even lift my leg to put on a sock. I called him and asked him why he didn’t call for an MRI of my lumbar region and he said he pinpointed the pain higher. I don’t know how you could pinpoint a pain in my hip between my shoulder blades but I’m not a doctor. I took copies of my MRI to my chiropractor, who by the way originally told me he thought it was a strained ligament. My chiropractor admitted he wasn’t trained in reading MRI’s but we both looked at the films and couldn’t see a darn thing. Everything looked good. So he did some manual evaluations, put me through some exercises, and told me that there was no way there was any disc damage to my lumbar region. Sooooo, I’m calling my doctor to bitch at him and tell him to find out what the hell is wrong with my hip.

I did a feeler workout yesterday trying every exercise under the sun to see what I could do without pain. I’m going to lift today. Just dips and pullups until I find out the real deal from my doctor. I am glad for one thing and that is finding about the discs in my upper back. I do alot of clean and presses and I always had some discomfort with heavier weights. Now I know to change my routine or take it easier so as not to cripple myself.

I appreciate all the feedback. Realizing your mortality is a sobering thing. I’ll keep you posted if I find out anything more about my lumbar region.

I’ve had anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion (c5-c7) in June 2001.

Recovered fine, feel great.

The anterior (through the front of the neck) is less invasive then what is available for the lower regions.

They are doing crazy cool stuff with disk surgeries these days, like synthetic disk replacement.

Good luck.


I have a ruptured disc L4 L5 I took it easy for about 18 months nothing but leg presses and lots of abs then I started adding in hyper ext worked my way up to 45 pound plate for 4 sets of 10. Well I have been squating for about 5 months now since nov 2004. I just did 396 in a competition in vegas last weekend. It’s not great but it’s a start. I have mild discomfort but I don’t want anybody cutting up my back if I can avoid it. I have heard that they have a new method where they inject the disc with some gel like stuff that makes it alot better. My doctor told me they are just a few years away from being able to make a new disc.