T Nation

Herniated Disc - Desperate


#1

Hello,

First of all: this is my first post on these forum so I didn't really know where to post this. Sorry if it's wrong. Secondly: sorry for the bad English, it's not my native language.

So here it goes: some 3 months ago, I had a bad sting in my lower back while I was deadlifting (I had these before, but the pain disappeared right away). I'm sure my form was correct. I continued lifting for several weeks but the pain wouldn't go. I consulted my doctor who advised me to go see a physical therapist. No use.

Had a MRI which revealed that I have a herniated disc. They advised to go see a chiropractor. I went 5 times to that guy now and all he ever says is to be patient and that it'll go away.

It's not the case at all. I'd even say it's getting worse, now I feel pain all day long and I have a tingling feeling (do you guys say that like this?:)) in my legs which I didn't have before.

The chiropractor guy also said that I could exercise whenever I wanted to so I did that. I did nothing for about 2.5 months, and last week I went to the gym. I wanted to grab a bar off the floor and my back immediately felt weird. I mean come on, I'm getting desperate.

I don't know what I should do now. How do you guys even exercise in a situation like this? I can't even grab heavy dumbbells and I get stings and a weird feeling in my back ... Which exercise should I do?

I want to believe it'll get better but it's so damn depressing:( Will I ever be able to lift heavy again?

Anyway, sorry for the long story but I really don't know what to do anymore ...

Every reply will be much much much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Corax


#2

Hey man...
I don't really know how to help you, but i'm reading all the time about people with the same problem deadlifting and squatting like crazy 3 times a week...

So no matter what, don't get so depressed man, it happens, just consult with SPORTS doctors, rehab it, and you'll be able to lift again in no time.

Heal fast

Silencer.


#3

You need to make sure the soft tissue components are taken care of also. There are various muscles that can contribute to sciatica, such as the piriformis and hamstrings, along with others.

The chirorpactor is wrong is that you can go exercise normally now. Without seeing you , I can't make any suggestions based on your posture, but I think you will need to insure you have adequate hip flexor flexibility.

I would start by doing glute bridges if they don't increase pain. you can try bodyweight squats for sets of up to 25 reps. If these are pain free, you can start gradully adding in weight. Sled draggin is also an alternative that will help you keep up hip and leg strength.

By gradual, I mean not over 4 workouts. I would set a timetable of 6-12 months to return to your previous weights.

I'm also a chiropractor btw. Just so you know I've dealt with these things before.


#4

Thanks for the advice. Well, it kind of surprises me you recommend these exercises, because I was doing them during the first couple of weeks following my injury. Are hindu squats okay? I can perform these pain free, the glute bridges as well. It doesn't go as smooth as in those first weeks though. I'll try and do them on a daily basis again.

What would you advise on the gym thing? I'd just like to try and maintain the muscle I have now. What about hyperextensions? I can do them without pain as well, but I'm not sure if they're safe so I leave them out. 'leave them out' is a big word, I'm not on a training scheme or anything like that. I've been to the gym twice now and all I did were some chins and arm/chest exercises.

Corax


#5

Look into "McKenzie Extension" exercises. These are back exercises for people who have herniated discs. The idea behind these exercises is that you put pressure on the posterior aspect of the disc and try to force it back into place (thats sounds very crude, but I'm trying to keep this in laymen's terms). Stay away from any exercise that forces you into a lot of hip flexion because this puts pressure on the front part of the disc and can cause it to herniate further (ie reclined leg press machines and "Williams Flexion" exercises)
Begin standing hamstring stretches, hip flexor stretches, piriformis, and gastroc and soleus stretches. Stretching the muscles of the legs and hips will help to take pressure off of the lower back.
Find a good core stabilization program. You might want to try to "google" core stabilization exercises or look at http://www.pbats.com/educate/trunk/index.htm. Don't do any of the partial sit ups or crunches shown here. Hip or trunk flexion is contraindicated for a herniated disc.

As for working out, I would get your back into shape before attempting to hit the gym again. I know that is very conservative, but at this point you have bigger things to worry about. Tingling in your legs is an indication that the disc is now pushing on one of the nerves. THIS IS NOT GOOD!!! Not trying to scare you, but am trying to warn you that herniated discs can get worse if not taken care of properly. Don't push it or you could end up having surgery to repair the disc and you don't want this!!

Good Luck!!


#6

Stay away from hyperextensions as of now. It's not a bad idea to check out the Mackenzie exercises.

For upper body, do what doesn't hurt. supported rows or hammer rows. Benches without a serious arch. Be careful of seated exercises and standiing presses.

Also, be very careful of moving dumbells and setting up your weights. bending the wrong way might aggravate your condition.

You can do the bodyweight stuff daily. At the least, do it on workout days.

Remember, every time you move, you're lifting weights, so to speak. Your muscles are working against resistance.

The key is to not load the area to much to quickly, allowing inflammation in the disc area to subside. you can then slowly build up the area. Let pain be your guide. If an exercise increases pain during and after your done, don't do it again, or don't use as much weight.


#7

Thanks for the advice. I looked the mckenzie exercises up but I can't seem to find much (or I have to order the book) with pictures (don't understand all the English:/).

I do have another question though. I was wondering, but is a herniated disc the same as a hernia and a bulging disc? The MRI revealed that I have a hernia ... (thought it was the same as a herniated disc)

The chiropractor told me I should be doing crunches every day ... So this is a bad idea?

Anyway, it nice to have some support. Everyone I know just point their fingers and tell me "look what all that training did to you!". Sigh.


#8

I just did all the stretches you guys mentioned and I must say, it felt quite good. Although I was suprised to see how 'stiff' all my muscles really are. The piriformis stretch for instance was quite a pain in the ass ... But it felt good afterwards.

I also did a mckenzie exercise:

Prone lying on elbows. Lie on your stomach with your weight on your elbows and forearms and your hips touching the floor or mat. Relax your lower back. Remain in this position 5 to 10 minutes. If this causes pain, repeat exercise 1, then try again.

This started to hurt after a couple of minutes though, so I stopped (or is this wrong?). When I lean backward while standing up now, it hurts. So I guess I should better wait with that ex?

(comes from this website: http://www.bodyprospt.com/mckenzie_extension_exercises.htm)

Corax


#9

If chiropractic work does not help like it didnt with me I would high suggest getting a referal from a neurosurgeon for a pain management doctor.


#10

don't do crunches for now, as the other guy said. you can possibly worsen this.


#11

Tom63,

How often should I perform the stretches? Once/twice/more a day? When can I start with the crunches again?

Is this a common problem? I mean, are there a lot of people who have overcome this problem and returned to a normal training schedule again? (after a long period of rehab of course)

Corax


#12

A herniated disc is different than a bulging disc. First, think of a disc as a jelly filled donut. The inside of the disc (the filling) is called the nucleus pulposus and the outside is the anulus fibrosus. When a disc is herniated the filling/nucleus pulposus is leaking or being pushed out of the anulus fibrosus. This pushes on the spinal nerve and causes the tingling sensation down the back of your leg. A bulging disc is when the anulus fibrosus is still intact and the nucleus pulposus is still in its normal postion inside the a.f., but the entire disc itself is being pushed posteriorly and is pushing on the spinal nerve.

A hernia is different than either of these two. A true hernia is when the intestines are pushing or protruding through the abdominal wall. There is a big difference between these two conditions!!
Do you have a hernia and a herniated disc? For your sake I hope not, b/c that's a lot to deal with.

If you have a herniated disc or bulging disc in your lumbar spine, then YES!!!! Doing any movements going into trunk flexion will put more pressure on the anterior/front part of the disc and can cause it to herniate further. Thus putting more pressure on the spinal nerve, which will increase the numbness and tingling in your leg(s)

Tell them to SHUT THE F##K UP!!


#13

Goddamn, this is starting to get confusing heh.

The doctor who saw my MRI told me I have a beginning hernia. That's all I know, I don't know whether a beginning hernia is the same thing as a herniated disc. However, the guy stressed I don't need surgery and told me that I should notice good improvement after going 4/5 times to a chiropractor.

I'm seeing the chiropractor thursday, I'll ask him what the correct name of my injury is in English. Hopefully he'll know.

As for now, I'm not doing any crunches for the time being. The stretches feel good.

Thanks for your time, good thing I still have the internet.

Corax


#14

It's hard to say about the time frame, but I would say possibly m0onths. For now, concentrate on the vacuum typ eof exercise where you statically contract your abs but don't move your shoulders in relation to your pelvis. this should keep aome decent strength in the region.

You can also do a google search for horse stance exercises. These help to hit the small muscles of the back which will help stabilze your lower back.


#15

You can stretch up to 3-4x's per day, but listen to your body. If you have pain then stop!!! Don't do any hamsring stretches where you round your lower back. Keep your back straight when stretching your hamstrings. I recommend to my athlete's standing in front of a stool, chair, couch etc. Put one leg up onto the chair. Keep your hips straight ahead, knee in complete extension and keep your foot pulled back towards your body. Lean forward at the hips not through your lumbar spine. Imagine a rod up your back that will not allow it to bend. Keep your back straight and lean forward at the hips to stretch your hamstrings.

Extension Exercises
1. Lay on your stomach. Forearms on the floor, elbows under your shoulders. Rise up onto elbows as high as possible, keeping hips on floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times. Do 3-4x's/ day.

  1. Lay on stomach. Hands on floor like you are beginning a push up. Press your upper body upward, keeping hips in contact with floor. Keep lower back, butt and legs relaxed. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times. Do 3-4x's/ day.

  2. Lay on stomach. Hands underneath shoulders like you are about to do a pushup. Keep your knee locked. Lift your leg (doing one leg at a time here)8-10 inches from floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times. Do 3-4x's/ day.

  3. Stand in front of a wall elbows and forearms on wall. Feet together and about 1- 1 1/2 feet from wall. Push/sink hips towards wall. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times. Do 3-4x's/ day.

These are some basic extension exercises that most Physical Therapists will give you to begin with. Again, listen to your back. If it hurts check your form, hold for a shorter amount of time, or don't perform as many at one time. Combine these with the stretches, and the core stabilization program I directed you to earlier at . DO NOT DO ANY SITUPS, CRUNCHES OR ANY EXERCISE THAT FORCES YOU INTO TRUNK OR HIP FLEXION. THIS CAN MAKE YOUR CONDITION WORSE.


#16

Exactly. I've come back from multiple inuries. Everyone gets them, it's just matter of dealing with them safely and getting back to it.

In the long run, your training is a plus, as long as you keep learning and stay safe.


#17

Well I've been thinking it over and looked it up in a dictionary ...

The doctor who saw the MRI told me this: "you have a beginning hernia. A bulging disk." I'm sure he said bulging disk (that's the word I looked up). I'll still ask for confirmation Thursday though.

So a bulging disk is less worse than a herniated disc? Sorry for all the questions, but all this shit has a different meaning in my language. And what takes longer to rehab? A bulging disk or a herniated one?

Corax


#18

I'll be honest I am not sure that having one is any better than the other. Thinking about the anatomy of the disc and the nerves I think it would be safe to say that a bulging disc is better than a herniated disc b/c a herniated disc means that the disc is damaged with regards to the anulus fibrosus and the inside of the disc is leaking out (the nucleus pulposus)and pushing on the nerves. Look into the anatomy of the intervertebral discs and lumbar spine anatomy for a better understanding of what I am talking about.
If it's just the beginning of a herniated disc than that is better than having a herniated disc. In my opinion, a bulging disc would take less time to rehab. As you get older the discs will start to lose there fluid and will become more brittle. To some degree this is a bad thing, but it happens to everyone as they get older. In your case, if it is just a bulging disc and not a herniated disc this could be a good thing because in a few months the disc could lose some of its fluid (imagine a grape turning into a raisin) and this could result in less pressure being put on the spinal nerve.
Don't worry about the questions. Helping ppl is part of my profession and I understand it sucks not being able to train. Hope that helps!!


#19

Okay thank you.

So as a summary, what would you propose for the future/near future?

I'll do the stretches and core exercises on a daily basis, but then what? Do these until my back feels better? And once my back feels better, try some crunches and hyperextensions? And once these go without a problem, moving back to the lifts with a very light weight?

Also, I have a lot of trouble sitting, that's when I feel it the most. Is that normal? When I sit, it feels 'stiff', and after a while I get those damn stings:( There's no improvement in that whatsoever ... (I tried it, even when I just stretched, I still have trouble sitting:()

Corax


#20

Hey Corax,

I did exactly the same thing in early jan. Look in Cresseys locker room either jan or feb cuz he had some really good advice for me. Stay on the bright side though, my back relapsed a couple of times early on but I am now almost back to squatting heavy without problems. Just make sure you progress slowly and listen to your body. The main rehab exercises that I have been doing have been split squats, 45 deg back ext, SB Crunches and Cable wood chops. Hope this helps, I know how frustrating it can be.