T Nation

Herniated Disc while Squatting


Has anyone ever herniated a disc while doing back squats? If so what does it feel like and how long did it take you to recover? Is it a similar sort of pain to a pulled or torn QL? I was doing back squats with really bad form (I leaned forward far too much) and it just feels like a knife cut me from my tail bone and up 3 inches. I should add that front squatting is now 10x more painful than back squatting. I can back squat around 200 lbs without little to no pain or discomfort but I literally can’t front squat over 60lbs without fucking up my back for 3-4 days. And I know, I need to go to a doctor and get diagnosed…and I will but it’s not preventing me from working my job and I can’t afford to take the time off of work anytime soon. So just consulting my fellow lifters out there for the moment. Thank you guys in advance


There is no way of telling if you herniated a disc or not with out an MRI. I have had and worked with several clients with herniated discs and unfortunately the act of lifting is rarely the cause of the injury. What I always see is people with poor movement patterns and posture moving through their daily life improperly constantly, then come into the gym and think they can out train all the poor movement they already performed during the day. My recommendation is taking a step back from the gym and look at what causes the pain. Once you do that avoid those painful positions. I’d also recommend frequent walking at a decent pace. There is nothing better for the back than walking. What you said about ur front squat leads me to believe you’re flexion intolerant meaning flexion in the spin will irritate your back further cause more back issues. I highly recommend you look at Stuart McGills work. It’s quite brilliant and I follow all his wisdom with my back pain patients. Best of luck keep me posted


Thank you for your insight, I’ve come to realize that I do have extremely bad posture and my jobs I’ve had for the past couple years have been labor intensive and have involved things like raking, shoveling and carrying thing. I’m 6’2 with longer legs and I find myself hunching over far too much to perform tasks like shoveling, picking something up etc. I’m really glad that you said walking, because I’ve found that after I go for a long walk my whole body feels great. I think I need to take a couple steps back and lay off the barbell for a few months and fix my body first. Thank you again for information


I herniated my disc doing squats and other various power lifting moves while crossfiting. I didn’t realize it for awhile, just had pain and soreness. I thought it was muscle soreness and I needed to get tougher. lol…anyways, my back squat kept getting worse until I was down to 135 lbs and then I knew something else is wrong. My right thigh was and still is numb, which is a sign of the pinched nerve. I did the MRI showed lower discs herniated. I stopped crossfit and started working out with no lower body exercises or minimal exercises. I started seeing a chiropractor and getting in a device that pulls the body apart (spinal decompression), then ice and stim. This was very helpful in relieving pain and inflammation. It took me 3 years before I was really back to running and doing lower body exercises. I’m still very careful doing lower body or overhead work. Sucks. Thigh is still slightly numb and drinking doesn’t help (causes me inflammation). I would just re-evaluate your workout plan and avoid the exercises that cause issues a day or two after doing them.


I was sort of in your boat at first I thought I had to get used to training frequency or heavy weights. I went from squatting 305 for 5 to 225 for a painful double. And I can’t even front squat 60lbs and I’m out of commission for almost a week. I don’t have any numbness which I guess is a good sign that it’s not a disc. I’ve talked to 2 physical therapists I know and they seem to think it’s a QL strain or tear. I’ve been hanging upside down by the waist from really thick resistance bands or hanging from a pull up bar with 100lbs strapped to me and it helps so much. Where exactly was the pain you were feeling? And what other movements did you notice it irritated?


My pain was L4 and L5 right near my butt. My hips and butt would be muscle sore. But overall my energy level and movement was just jacked. Still isn’t the same but better. I’m 210 6’2” and work a desk job and I try hard for better posture. I have tight hamstrings no matter what so I try to stretch those and my core sucks so I work on that a lot these days. I was squatting a lot when doing Crossfit and I was doing a lot of movements fast. It just caught up. The hanging is so awesome, I do the same when I’m in the gym. I grab the knee ups hanging thingys and just hang out. I do small knee ups to strengthen core but just hanging is awesome feeling. I noticed my front squat was still impacted but not as much. Ground to overhead was weird because I would clean and it hurt then the overhead portion was easy. Lol. Deadlift, I kept trying to do it but it killed me a day later. Middle to lower back really sore and kept having coaches analyze my form, which they all said it was as good. I stopped. I liked power lifting and I felt strong but I’ve stopped. I do a lot of dumbbells to engage my core. Once my core goes my back suffers and knees.


Id highly recommend the core exercises Stuart Mcgill discuss in his work. Bird dogs, side planks and curl ups. You’ll need to build stability in your core while still avoiding too much flexion. Those are perfect. Do them twice a day with some short interval walks and you’ll be back at it in no time. Best of luck! Keep me posted


Yes. If the pain is in your back, it’s probably not a disc. A herniated disc in the lumbar region will likely cause pain more in your leg than in your hip; the protruding disc material impinges the nerve root from the nerve feeding in from the leg, and your brain interprets this as a problem in the leg. In fact, I was sure I had somehow injured my leg somehow when I first went to the doctor. I ended up having a microdiscectomy to fix the problem because the pain became unbearable, but some people are able to recover through just rest and physical therapy.
What you’re describing sounds more like muscle strain (something I’ve also done, many times) than a disc issue. Regardless, as others have said here, you need to go to a doctor and have it checked out, preferably a doctor who specializes in sports-related injuries.



I did low bar with very small back angle during warmup sets. Not properly stretched, lost tightness in the hole. On my way up heard/felt a pop and everything tensed up. Tried to stretch to see if it was just a strained muscle, but no way. Had to stop all training and go home. Typical L5-S1, with sciatic nerve pinching (i.e. felt it more in my left hamstring than back). I normally can almost put my full hand palms on the floor with straight legs, but after this my hands would barely go further down than my quads. Went to 6 sessions with physio (one per week), and lots of ibuprofen the first week. I was not in much pain during the day, but physio said it would help with the inflammation. He was right, it was noticeably better after some ibuprofen.
took a break from gym for 2 weeks than started normal upper body days. after 4 weeks I started light sumo deadlifts again (no pain). After 6 weeks I started front squatting again and eventually back squats. I believe I was fully recovered after about 2-3 months, but I now squat with a much more upright back angle. I have hit deadlift PRs after this injury, so there was light at the end of the tunnel.


Sounds so similar to my issues. I’ve got a desk job for the first time as opposed to labor. Bad posture and tight hamstrings. I’m really hoping it’s not a disc and it’s just QL but I’ve been doing a ton of walking and stretching and it seems to be helping. Deadlifting believe it or not doesn’t irritate it whatsoever it’s only when I have weight compressing my spine from the top. Even just doing a light goblet squat will irritate it but I can pull 3-4 plates from the floor pain free. I’ve always excelled at deadlifts and sucked at squats. I’m about your height and weight but I’ve got stupid long legs that suck for squatting