First I'll post my history.....I used to weight lift a lot when I was younger, starting from my football days in high school. I was pretty small in high school (140-150 lbs in my freshman & sophomore years, around 160 lbs in my junior year, and maybe 170-175 my graduating year).
I trained in martial arts a bit when I was in my 20s.
In my late 20s & early 30s, I weight-trained sporadically and got out of shape.......Then, about 2 and a half years ago, I was in a bad car accident where I ended up with 3 herniated discs in my neck. Doctor told me I'd never be able to do weight lifting or play sports again, and even cautioned me in staying away from being in a moving vehicle, due to the bumps and such messing with my neck.
I was on painkillers for 9 months, also going through physical therapy at the same time....There was a long period of time where I couldn't even sit up for more than 10 minutes. Just sitting up for 5-10 minutes would leave me in severe pain, where I would have to lie down for 1-3 hours to recover......Also, even towards the end of my physical therapy, the painkillers made me non-functional (Both mentally & physically).
Finally, I got tired of it, and on August of 2009 I decided to start working out, regardless of what the doctor told me.......I started off by doing laps in the pool, as well as dumbbell sessions (30 lb dumbbells). I would only do a couple laps in the pool, and only did sets of 10 with the dumbbells (chest press & shoulder press), so I started off extremely light.......It was extremely painful, and I felt like I wouldn't be able to continue doing this, but over time I gradually increased the pool laps, as well as the reps with the dumbbells. On shoulder press, I never went past 3 sets of 10, but with chest press, I eventually got to the point of doing 3 sets of 50.
After 2 months, I joined a gym (Oct of 2009).
Keep in mind, I always feel pain, and the pain is pretty severe when I work out (Especially when doing shoulders or back), but I just keep it up as it allows me to physically function, as I have a base of muscle for my body to use. It has helped immensely with my neck injury.