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Herniated Disc

I herniated a disc on my second rep of 485 last Tuesday. I’ve successfully pulled 540 without any pain, but this time I lost focus on my form and felt a pop on my second rep.

My question is has anyone dealt with this kind of injury and come back to powerlifting? Possibly even coming back stronger? Right now I can barely walk and it seems like lifting won’t be something I’ll be able to do for a while.

I’ve herniated discs on several occasions, from L1-S1 in some combination. Still PL competitively, and still get stronger. Here’s what I’ve done/used to get right. Also, I’m not a doc so do not construe this as medical advice.

  1. ice/heat combo. If you have the means to contrast bath, do it. This helps with less severe herniations.

  2. CORE WORK w/o FLEXION. Planks. Dead bugs. Bird dogs. Strengthening my core more aggressively has helped a ton. Never heard anyone say their core was too strong.

  3. Chiro & massage. Some will absolutely disregard this as quack medicine, but seeing a Chiro & massage therapist as often as once a week keeps my shit right.

  4. Surgery-last resort, but I had a 3 level microdiscectomy and was back in the gym in 4 weeks.

Good luck dude, lumbar spine injuries are a motherfucker.

Thanks rage, I appreciate the advice. I have herniated a disc before and i agree that strengthening my core and seeing a chiropractor helped to rehabilitate my back. I also think squatting and deadlifting with proper form have helped to rehabilitate my back. I don’t ever want to think about surgery on my spine. That would be the absolute last resort.

It’s encouraging to know that you have dealt with this injury and have bounced back stronger than ever. I’m not a competitive power lifter but it is a dream of mine one day.

I’ve had herniated or bulging discs on and off since I was 16. You doubtfully herniated it doing one rep. Discs slip out of place over time and take time and effort to fix. This helped me best:

  1. Don’t sit too long
  2. Work on hip, hamstring, and ankle flexibility
  3. Stretch out backwards on a workout ball first thing in the morning and last thing at night
  4. Do back extensions on the workout ball focusing on driving your hips into the ball
  5. Visit a chiropractor regularly

Hope this helps

Thanks bob. I know back injuries are caused by repetitive movement. Or incorrect repetitive movement. I’ve only been lifting for two years and I know my form isn’t perfect. I don’t have a regular stretching routine either and a few days prior I felt really tight in my low back. I have a chiropractor appointment today. Hopefully I can get back into the gym within a few weeks.

When you say back extension on a ball is that prone or supine?

Ruptured a disc in February playing rugby (didn’t realise that’s what id done and carried on deadlifting for a week like a moron)

First thing rest. No point making it worse in the short term.
Keep walking and standing as much as possible.
Chiro was of no use to me but others swear by them.
Physio really really helped once the initial agony had calmed down a bit.
Front squats and Dead Squat bar/trap deadlift looking long term.

Patience is really important. Think long term. Swimming and walking are a bit crap but will really help. Good luck man, i know your pain. No fun

Thanks mark, I appreciate the encouragement. I have had great success with chiropractic care before. I just wanted to hear of others who have overcome the injury and come back stronger. It’s a dream of mine to total over 2000lbs. Before I injured myself my total was 1410, and I was getting stronger and stronger with an existing herniation. But it always seems like this injury will be there to trip me up. I had a belt on and was bracing…I know my form slipped on my second rep as I was doing touch and go…but I’m amazed at some of these
Lifts guys do without a belt that would make my spine snap.

Umm, not sure the difference actually. You lie with hips on the ball, facing the ball, so whichever that is. Then push up with your arms while you push your hips into the ball. Like the ball was your prom date

I had two herniated discs that manifested itself as sharp shooting muscle spasm sciatic type pain shooting down my hamstrings and inside of thigh. Had little to no actual pain in my back but plenty of leg pain. The best thing I found for it was full step low speed prowler pushing.

My weeks would go something like squat monday, bench tuesday and starting tuesday night I would get muscle twitching in my hamstrings/thighs as the soreness from squatting set in. By Wednesday night it would turn into full blown muscle spasms and would last sometimes through Friday night. This really screwed with my deadlifting on Thursday.

Don’t know what type of symptoms you’re having but if it’s in the legs like mine Prowlers walks were great rehab. Normally I would do Prowler sprints on Monday and Tuesday with the aim toward conditioning. As the twitching turned to spasms I would force myself through the Prowler walks on Wednesday and I guess it could be the blood pumping into my back and legs that really helped or the Prowler keeping my hips in line but it would usually do the trick and I could deadlift on Thursday if I pushed myself through a good Prowler session on Wed.

Oh ok bob, that’s prone. That sounds a lot like that “cobra” yoga stretch extending the back. That is a very good exercise. I never tried it on the ball, I will have to try that.

Finteal I am actually lucky, no sciatica. I went to the chiropractor yesterday and half of the pain is gone. He believes it was a rupture at the sacro-iliac joint as I was having terrible pain bearing my weight. He adjusted that and he said he believes it happened as the result of muscle imbalances and coming off the floor imbalanced with the deadlift (which I’m ashamed to admit sometimes my right side comes up faster). I’m still going for an MRI to make sure I didn’t make my previous herniation worse.

Thanks for sharing guys.

Good to hear that it’s not sciatica and I hope you make a full recovery. Yeah the sciatica is a HUGE pain in the ass. On Thursdays I’ll attempt deadlifts to see if it triggers the muscle spasms and if it does I’ll go outside and do more Prowler rehab. It’s so frustrating because sometimes I can only put two 10lb bumper plates on the bar (to check range of motion) and I can’t even do that. The next day after doing some rehab I can do high reps with 350lb.

I was thinking, although I’ve never done this, that you could get similar rehab with a weight vest/backpack and a set of stairs. Just load up some weight and do stair walks where you take 2-4 steps at a time and be real careful about the technique and keeping the torso and hips in line

I had an MRI done and the good news is that there are no herniations. However all 5 of my lumbar discs are bulging. My MRI looked good though. Doc said all the discs look good and are holding shape fairly well given my sport of choice. One of the bulges is approaching a nerve so my chiro is going to do some decompression on it to help push the disc back in place.

One thing that was interesting was that 4 years ago I suffered a herniation and pinched nerve. It has healed. People say they can’t heal, but with proper rehab, training, and diet, it can heal.

I’ve been doing a lot of reverse hypers and they have helped tremendously with reducing pain. I only have pain when I really hyperextend my back now but hopefully after the decompression that goes away. Only been pulling and squatting with 315 for reps. I hate feeling so weak but it’s better than not being able to do Anything. Just taking it slow and focusing on form. As Wendler has stated, you want to be a lifer when it comes to lifting.

My 0.2 cents - I had L4-L5 and L5-S1 disc herniations (right side of the vertebrae if I’m not mistaken, in the spinal canal) 4 years ago and as a result of that I had problems with my right leg - I could’nt dorsiflex (basicallvhy, couldn’t stand on my heel and support my bodyweight as my foot would fall flat back on the floor). I swam a little, started lifting and never looked back. Somehow it just fixed itself but in my case the injury was a result of lying in bed for months after a severe knee surgery.

Also, as someone mentioned before me, it might have happened to you before, not on that particular deadlift. Back is a complex beast and disc herniations extremely varied. I believe Cressey or Gentilcore wrote an AWESOME article here on TNation saying how some folks have herniations and don’t even know it, others have minor herniations but terrible pains, etc.

No rules, but your best bet is of course a good medical specialist, a person who understands orthopedics AND sports injuries. Recover well!

As my problem also relates to back pain, and I’m currently training using a 531 2-day routine, I feel this thread is suitable for my question.

I don’t think I have a herniated disc, but I sometimes, usually after sets of deadlifts and sometimes squats, feel some minor pain in my lower back. Also, after DL, squats if I rotate my torso to the side and down, or if I lie on my back and do those roating movements (torso on the floor, legs moving to either side) which help stretch the lower back muscles, I can hear/feel loud cracking in my (lower) back, and after that it gets a bit better (the pain goes away). I think the pain started when I did 531 AMRAP beltless sets on DL and back squats also contributed to it - meaning lower back rounding (bad form) was the culprit. This has started a few years ago.

So now when I do DL and BS I just try to keep my abs braced as much as possible, and it somewhat helps. Also doing BS with heel lifts also helps me, as this prevents LB rounding. But I just feel that my core is weak, literally I feel that it’s my weak point - imagine feeling, like you’re gonna break in half at your lower back when doing heavy DL, BS or good mornings. Also I can lift some intermediate weight in the gym, but if I go let’s say wood chopping or showelling, etc., I have to be really careful, as I can tweak my back really quickly in those kind of high rep activities. And this makes me feel really weak, and I want to change it. I already do Defranco’s Limber 11 before gym sessions, and as I only train twice a week, I for now do only a few sets of AB wheel and good mornings for my core.

Basically I just need some really effective core exercises - just a few of them, which I would hammer with great intensity. Like I said, for now I’m relying on GM, AB wheel, and sometimes Hanging leg raises. Unfortunately I don’t have a back raise apparatus. Which exercsises besides the mentioned ones are really useful for strengthening the core in your opinion.

Thanks for reading this essay, and thanks for your help.