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Herniated a Disc


I over the summer i went on a diet, dropped from 270 down to between 240-245 which made my lifts drop down some too. my lifts are goin a little better again, deadlifted 550 x 2 last week, narrow stance deep squats into the 400's which is how i like to squat. if i want to move some heavier weight i can slide my feet out and still get a hair over 500. im not sure where bench is but i did some sets of 3's this week that went something like 275*3 290*3 315*3 335*3 335*3 335*5. starting to move my weights a little better that i was and then this week i stepped back to front squat still warming up and dropped down, in the whole it felt like my low back erupted and hit the floor and literally could not stand up on my own will.

Turns out i hurniated a disc and was told I basically cant lift anymore. this isnt going to happen, but i literally cant touch my own knees. i tried to go in and do seated shoulders and couldnt lift up 40 lb dumbells of the rack for warmups and even had some guys hand them to me and couldnt push them because of my pain when i tried to press.

so the real question is has anyone herniated a disc and come back at it like it didnt happen. im not going to stop lifting. monday ill go back in and grind my teeth do whatever i am physically able to do, but it sounds like its going to be a long road to feeling better


http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_injuries/the_lower_back_pain_thread read the links a few times over that I posted in that thread, I have herniated my lower back twice but now have come back from it feeling as if it almost never happened though the help of those links. Obvioulsy I don't do the things anymore that led to my injury so now I do front squats or lunge variations instead of low rep back squats.


Be careful. I bulged (= almost but not quite herniated) a couple of discs in April 09 and I am still in debilitating pain 18 months later.

Do not do things that put undue stress on the lower back. That includes the shoulder work that you mention.


The key for now is to manage your load and decrease your inflammation as much as you can. Let the disc heal, get some good conservative care (ART, decompression, chiropractic, PT, etc) to unload the discs as much as possible and then start bumping back up. You wouldn't go out and run 5 miles on a sprained ankle, why would you go and try to lift like a beast and load the crap out of a damaged area?

It's not a matter of necessarily stopping, just decreasing your load and doing things that don't cause axial loading of your spine. Do what you can to get a training effect, but if it sends you over a 5-6/10 on a pain scale (10 being your worst pain ever) then don't do it, find something to substitute for it.


At what level and what type of herniation is it? Is it a bulge or did it punch through your annular fibers (sequester)? Pain below the knee? What positions provide relief? All these things need to be answered before a proper plan can be made up. You should get it checked out pretty quick. The longer you wait the more the research indicates a chronic pain cycle. The good news is that the natural history of a herniated disc will heal itself, but biomechanically you won't be the same which leads to bad movement patterns and poor timing of muscle firing, etc. (which could be why you herniated it to begin with)


How would one prevent chronic pain developing?

I started getting treatment promptly and still developed chronic pain. I'm wondering if there was anything that could have made a difference.


If you can answer that you would get a nobel prize. A lot of thinking in that regard is pointing to pain perception in the brain. Negative reinforcement like when a person knows something is going to hurt they have a tendency to pain magnify. So pain pathways in the brain become really sensitive (like getting a sun burn, being scratched hurts more then). Also, things like fear-avoidance behavior like a herniated disc patient putting on flip flops all the time cause it hurts to tie their shoelaces. Then they lose that motion and the tissue remodels over time leading to more derangement and pain which leads to more avoidance of activities, etc.

Or it could simply be that you are the 1 out of 4 that just didn't respond too well to conservative care, or the care wasn't complete.

Just remember, there is a difference between hurt and harm. Going back to the sunburn analogy. When you get scratched with a sunburn it really didn't damage your skin, but man it hurts. The one thing the literature seems to agree on is that if you have the same injury as someone else and have a negative attitude, guess what, you won't heal as fast or as well!

The good news is the cycle can be broken. People can have chronic pain and get better. The first step is a positive outlook. The next step is getting proper care. Good luck with both.


I have to admit I don't understand this one. It is repeated everywhere but is it really true? I know Stuart McGill for one does not seem to agree with this - he says that you keep hurting because of chronic underlying tissue injury. My initial injury was 18 months ago. Still, when I do something that hurts (like putting on shoes that have to be tied, yes), my back flares up for at least two weeks afterwards. This tells me the hurt was indicative of actual harm.



would you happen to a physical therapist?


I totally agree with McGill about the underlying tissue injury, but after 18 months your tissues have probably remodeled themselves. It sounds like your are really flexion intolerant. In my opinion your back gets "tight" as a protective measure because your muscles can't eccenctrically control your individual spinal segments (multifidi, rotatores...the little muscles you can't see that are so important). After a flare up where does it hurt? Does it hurt on one side more than the other? What are some activities you do to help? I would hate to jump the gun but you sound like someone that could be a candidate for McKinzie protocol. Those alleviative repetitive movement along with McGill's bracing techniques could help. Then you could potentially progress to 'mostability' (I believe Faye or Gray came up with this technique) which would retrain you to be able to properly control your movements even into flexion. Again all this is theoretical since I am not 100% familiar with your case. I would recommend Craig Liebenson's book "Rehabilitation of the Spine"... that book is worth it's weight in gold. I would also have to recommend you get worked up by a professional. If you have any more questions don't hesitate to PM me. Best of luck.


I am about to graduate chiropractic school.


check out Louie Simmons biography for info and inspiration.


It always hurts, but during a flare-up it hurts much worse locally a burning pain on the left side, lumbar region, as well as some burning sensation in my foot and groin.

Sitting is always a problem, but more so during a flare-up.

I do McGill's big three, bodyweight squats with perfect form, and extension positions (e.g. partial Cobra position held for 30s at a time). I also do some tennis ball release of the erectors/multifidus on the left hand side. I was doing nerve flossing but that only aggravated the radiating symptoms, so I stopped those.

Thank you for the references. I'll check them out.


You still do squats even with the pain still there? I have pretty much the same pain you do in the same areas that you describe. Its been about 8 months for me. Do you do any other types of lifts? Do you still stay in pretty good condition (build muscle and decent strength)?


Good call on stopping that motion. You want to focus on what's called "centralization". Basically that means if you do a movement that decreases your foot or groin pain but may increase the pain located centrally in your back - do that movement. Peripheral pain (below the knee, in the buttock, etc) is a worse indicator that local pain. Not to say the flossing is bad, but you might need a practitioner to release it first so that it actually flosses the nerve, because if you do a flossing technique on a nerve that doesn't move you are just stretching the nerve and creating more inflammation.

Based on your history it sounds like "derangement syndrome". I can't be 100% sure without actually evaluating you but you should try some reading in that regards.


It is just bodyweight squats - in other words, just the squat movement, keeping back neutral and sticking out your butt, without any weight, sliding hands down the thigh to the shortstop position (hands on knees) and back. Done correctly it does not cause any pain and does not stress the back. It's simply to groove the squat pattern for everyday activities such as sitting down.

I should have mentioned before that I went to see Stuart McGill up in Canada last October and this was one of the exercises he gave me to do besides his big three and the flossing. He told me to try the flossing but stop in case of aggravation, so I did. After that, a chiropractor here in Providence again worked on trying to get the nerve to floss for about 3 months but again it did not work. The nerves are definitely adhered (according to McGill's provocative testing). At the time he could not quite determine form his testing what it is that causes pain, and he thought it was probably a combination of discogenic, facet, and soft tissue pain. This is still my big issue - what is the cause of the pain?

The pain is centralized and has been centralized for a year - the peripheral symptoms I mentioned are very intermittent and very minor and don't bother me. Once the pain has already remained centralized for a year, what is supposed to happen next?

Thanks, I'll look up "derangement syndrome".