I am 38 years old and have gotten back into the lifting groove for the past 10 months after a 3-1/2 year layoff. Thanks to T-mag and the things I have learned there about nutrition and lifting technique, I have been able to reclaim and surpass my former level of strength and size. Unfortunately, after getting jazzed about full squats and slower tempos, I herniated a lumbar disc during a set of squats. I think the biggest problem was that I took them too low, and my lower back, lumbar region, ‘rounded over’. Also, my hamstring flexibility is somewhat lacking, prevent my pelvis from maintaining the proper rotation in the bottom of the movement.
I read warnings about this in T-mag, but didn’t have a good enough mental picture to realize this was happening to me. Take a minute to turn sideways to a mirror without weight and check your form, or have a friend watch your lower back as you squat! Your lumbar region is supposed to maintain a curve inward toward your stomach. I think a special article on T-mag about this would be great with photos of lumbar region showing exactly what this ‘rounding over’ looks like. In the past, I squatted more than this with rare episodes of mild and temporary low back muscular pain (could have been cumulative damage, I guess). When the disc finally herniated, I was ‘only’ squatting 225 and feeling fine until I felt a couple of pops down in my lower back. The next morning, I knew for sure something bad happened!
Well, I consider myself lucky because my sciatic pain only lasted a few days and I am back to work, but I have some partial numbness in my right foot. The doc says most people recover well in 3-4 weeks without surgery. I think this is the classic L5/S1 nerve impingement “S1 radiculapathy”. I have no pain walking, stretching, bending over, etc, and can still work out, although I am choosing exercises that greatly limit spinal compression. I have read that walking is very good for this since the discs don’t have there own blood supply and walking helps pump nourishing spinal fluids into the discs.
I would like to hear from some of you who have gone through this already. I realize that every case is different. The doc told me that the fibrous ring of the disc would heal back up, the herniated center (‘jelly’) portion would eventually dissolve, and the disc probably would not herniate again. What has been your experience? How long did it take for the numbness to clear up? Were you ever able to squat again? How about picking up heavy dumbbells?
The doctor has not given me a specific list of therapeutic exercises, although I am familiar with the usual pelvic tilts and stretching. I picked up a set of inversion boots and feel that this decompression therapy has helped some. If any of you have been through therapy, I would appreciate some descriptions of the most helpful exercises you performed.
Thanks in advance for your advice.