T Nation

Help Me Get Back (Low Back)

I’m going to try and keep this condensed and really hope for some good advice. Thanks

4 months ago I hurt my lower back deadlifting. It wasn’t an immediate pain but something that developed overnight. There was no sharp pain, shooting pain, or leg pain, just very stiff, especially in the morning.

I ice it 3 - 4 times/day, stretch and roll it.

Took about 2 weeks off of lower body work and then returned. It felt about 80% okay this point.

Re-injured myself doing light squats. Back to how it was at the beginning. Take another 2 - 3 weeks off. It’s getting better but very very slowly. At this point I’m a bit worried because I would like to think that I can distinguish between muscle and joint pain and this doesn’t feel muscular. The pace of recovery is also very slow.

I’m in the gym doing only upper body work and avoiding any spinal loading. It’s at around 60-70% but falls repeatedly into total injury if I so much as jog across the room.

I decide to say fuck it and totally abstain from physical activity for about 6 weeks. At the end of this period it feels pretty good. I can’t tell that it’s injured but I fear that any activity will send me back.

I start in the gym doing light upper body, lots of stretching, rolling, and biking.

I do the above for about 3 weeks. If I go a little heavy on the bench I have some soreness the next day but a different kind than originally. This soreness subsides in a day. A good sign. Jogging also no longer re-injures it.

I continue increasing the weights but still only do upper body.

Yesterday I squatted the bar for about 3x8. I also benched pretty heavy ( with a big arch) and my back seems ok today. Only very very mild soreness.

I want advice going forward. How to re-introduce things. What to watch for. Special exercises etc. I’m scared and really don’t want to re-injure it.


P.S - I went to the doctor about 6 weeks after the injury because I was worried I slipped a disk or something serious. He did the usual tests and said I hadn’t. Gave a prescription for physio but I never went as I don’t have insurance and don’t have the money to spend.

I have only injured it once in 8 years of lifting ( when I was 16 ). It was a pretty serious injury and I went to physio for about a month. Haven’t had any problems since ( I’m 22) and I regularly deadlift 400lbs +.

I know the term anterior pelvic tilt gets bantied about here a lot, and there is much disagreement about it’s actual existence or it’s importance as a source of pain if it does exist. However, if we put the actual name aside and think about “lumbar extension” we can use some of the “fixes” for APT in useful manner. You mentioned that one of the activities that aggravated your injury was benching, especially with a big arch. Benching is NOT a spinal loading exercise. What benching with a big arch and squatting may have in common is lumbar extension. A common cue in squatting is “arch hard”. Arching, whether squatting or benching (or deadlifting) is lumbar extension. The facet joints of the lumbar spine are in the back of the joint, therefore extension (arching) “smashes” them together. Facet joints are very richly innervated with pain fibers, so arching (lumbar extension) has the capability of hurting a lot! This would explain why there is no evidence of disc injury, and why this is not a muscle injury per se. Go to the articles tab of this site and search
Don’t Be Like Donald Duck
by Bret Contreras.

Don’t get too hung up on whether you actually have APT or not. The exercises in this article are awesome. If I’m on the right track, these exercises will make a noticeable difference in a very short time. If they do, make them a part of your routine permanently to fix the current problem and prevent future flare-ups.

On a side note, this website is really high quality. The contributing authors write really insightful and useful articles. Many of the posting members are very intelligent as well.

Thanks, looks like some good stuff. I’ll be trying it out.

IMO…your current approach of gradually introducing the work is the way to go. I always think conditioning before strength when recovering from an injury. Proper conditioning may take more time than most people prefer; but it is time well spent.

If you’d done your discs you would know all about it. I have damage to L4 and L5 (the latter is chronic). My advice would be, especially considering your age, bulletproof the back by doing the usual core strengthening work as standard in all your programmes. This is got to be the norm. Back off from spinal loading (you sound already pretty strong. Why not devote the time to unilateral work, lunges, etc).

Jogging/running is also pretty stressful on the lower back. Believe me, once you start aggravating the lumbar discs over time then injury is inevitable. Chronic stiffness is a sign that all is not well in the area so you really need to focus on what works and what aggravates.
By the way, well done on taking a total break. I often wish I had done that when the warning signs flashed rather than try to ‘work around it’, as so many coaches try to peddle!

rear leg elevated split squats.
farmers walks, easing into these.
Overhead carries, ease in.