T Nation

Herniated/Bulging Disc at L5

Hey all

I honestly don’t know if I am posting in the right place, or if I even should be posting on here at all, but decided to join to get some opinions, tips, pointers, suggestions…

I am not a bodybuilder, altho it has always interested me. The reason I decided to come to you all for advice is because of what you typically put your bodies thru, and the dedication and care you take of your bodies. I figured it might be the better place to go to get some ideas.

I have a herniated disc at L5. Happened about a month ago, and I keep re aggravating it. Am currently just going to chiropractic, resting, putting ice on it, and doing McKenzie excersises on it. Thinking about possible decompression treatments, but want to talk to my chiro on next appt about it first. Thought I blew it out again yesterday, but the sciatic pain has not gotten any worse(i stopped walking too fast and felt a “pop” and then the shooting pain; got an adjustment at chiro and some traction, just did bed rest last night and iced it; pain is no worse today than before the “pop” thank heaven).

My plan at this point is to keep doing the Mckenzie excersises, doing the ice, rest, etc, but moving around(probably with the help of a small back belt for the next few days to help keep my spine stable, but no more than that)to keep the blood flow going. I’ve also been told its ok to use a small hand held Shiatsu Massager that i have in the area to keep the blood moving and stimulate the muscles in the area, I’m assuming. I was hoping you all could help me out by answering a few questions or offering some suggestions on the following:

-Is there a supplement(currently taking Glucosamine)that might aid in the healing process? Willing to try a protein drink, but don’t want to waste my money on something that won’t help. I am currently taking Advil to help ease the discomfort, but it ruins my appetite and upsets my stomach(don’t think i’ll find anything that won’t). I know you need nutrients to heal, but just not that interested in food right now. Yes, I am trying to drink lots of water to hydrate.

-What do you think of using the back belt for now to stabalize? Helpful or not? Have any of you heard of this new Dr. Ho’s decompression belt?

-Aside from the Mckenzies, is there another excersise that I could do to help move the disc away from the nerve root that you know of?

-Once the pain is GONE, what excersise will help strengthen my back without causing a re injury? Someone suggested deadlifts with a light weight load, does this sound about right? Would appreciate any other suggestions.

-Lastly, been dealing with this for a month, and am damned tired of it. Can anyone send me a ray of sunshine and give me an idea of how long these things typically last, if one is doing their best to heal it? I seem to be making progress, but I am not a patient person and summer is coming; I just want my life back.

Hope you can help me out, I’d appreciate anything you might be able to tell me.


Low back pain is a very debilitating injury. It can take quite some time for things to full resolve. I would suggest going to the following link to a post with information dealing specifically with low back pain. http://tnation.tmuscle.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_injuries/the_lower_back_pain_thread?pageNo=0#3820758
The post offers links to several articles for you to reference.

For your specific situation, a few followup questions. How did the injury originally occur? Who diagnosed you with a disc herniation? Did you have an MRI done or was it a diagnosis done by examination only or was it a combo of exam and MRI? Was it a flexion based injury or extension based injury? I would assume that it is a posterior herniation and flexion based injury since you have been prescribed McKenzie exercises. If it is a flexion based/posterior herniation, then I would say McKenzie exercises are a good start. If it is an anterior herniation/extension based injury, then you should avoid the McKenzie exercises. The Shiatsu massager may help a little bit, but just be careful about the placement of it and if it is causing excessive inflammation to the area it may make symptoms worse. I would personally recommend going to find a good soft tissue/manual therapist to professionally work on it if you are considering that route.

As for your questions:

For specific supplements - anything that provides an anti-inflammatory benefit. Fish oil, circumin, etc. Glucosamine chondroitin wouldn’t hurt to take, though from my readings it is more for assisting with cartilaginous issues more than disc. But don’t expect a supplement to be a cure-all for this problem. Proper diet and hydration, etc will allow your body to work most efficiently to help with healing, so that should be a focus rather than what supplements to take.

The back belt may be a good option at the start to initially decrease symptoms and encourage more general body movement from you, but in the long run I would not agree with it. By using the belt, you are increasing the stability to the area (which is good for right now), but you are also decreasing the activity of the core musculature that normally has the responsibility to create that stability that the belt offers. Over a long period of time, it will weaken those muscles. So again, in the short term to decrease spasm and pain and encourage movement, it is okay.

Other than McKenzie exercises (if those are the correct exercises for you to be doing), I would just recommend core stability exercises, but it is hard to recommend without knowing which direction your herniation is going. Any exercises that promote a neutral lumbar spine should be safe to do. I would definitely agree with you on discussing the option of decompression/traction therapy with your therapist.

Once the pain is gone, my suggestion would be to determine where your weaknesses/imbalances are and correct those before performing any exercise that will be too advanced. Light deadlifts in general should be fine, but if you have a mobility or stability issue that have remain unresolved, it may predispose you to lumbar spine movement that may recreate the injury.

Like I said earlier, LB injuries take time, even when disc issues are not involved. It is hard to say anything other than just be patient and take things day by day. If you rush through something, you will end up making it worse.

Best of luck!