T Nation

L3 and L4 Disks - Flattened and Degenerated


Guys as you can see by the title I am having back problems, I have been having back pain, upper and lower, and pain down into my right hip and leg to the knee for about a year now. Recently got the results back from an MRI scan which told me that my L3 AND L4 are "flattened and degenerated".

Next step in treatment is a steroid injection into my back which I think is quite likely, and after that it is surgery which I want to avoid at all costs. My pain has recently become worse as I have been hitting my squat and deadlift hard up untill last week when I decided to stop training till the new year apart from doing a bit off a routine on my gymnastics rings, just to give my spine a break from heavy loading.

I have had my form checked on my squat and deadlift and it is extremely good (not to blow my own horn too much), I have been training for 5 years and know what I am doing as far as this is concerned.

I am just wondering is there anything I can do other than hanging leg raises, planks etc. to help sort this out? Or would I be better just to give up on the idea of ever squatting heavy again??
By the way I am turning 21 in a few months if this has any bearing on things.
Thanks in advance, J


At 21 years old, unless you have been training poorly or been taking part in an activity that has ruined your disc, I am curious as to how you came to get this degenerated disc. Was there a bulge at the L3-L4 level, or was there just degeneration? Was the MRI done just at the lumbar region or did it include thoracic spine as well?

I am assuming that the steroid injection you are speaking of is an epidural. If the doctor is recommending it, I'd go for it. Though I wonder if they are looking to inject into the facet or into the disc space itself. Generally if there is a disc bulge they will inject to the disc/disc space to "shrink" the bulge and decrease the inflammation in the area. If there is degeneration, I am assuming the doc is saying that due to decreased space from the "flattened" (as you stated) disc that the nerve is getting pinched on. Not sure how an epidural will help in that situation, but I am only familiar with epidurals being used in a disc bulge situation.

That being said, where is your pain specifically? What type of pain is it? Numbness and tingling associated? Any weakness into your right lower extremity? You also said it has been going on for a year now. Was there a specific incident that started all of the back pain?

Go with what your doctor says and hopefully the epidural should help, but I'd be interested to see specifically where your pain going into your hip/leg/knee is located and if it matches up with the dermatomes of the L3-L4 level and if you have any myotome deficiency from the L3-L4 disc. Just a thought to chew on - the discomfort you are having may not necessarily be associated with the degeneration at your disc. Not saying that is for sure the case, but it is possible.

At 21 years old though, I find it hard to believe that you have this degenerative disc occurring without some faulty movement or overuse pattern to your lumbar spine. What sports/activities are you involved with? And who evaluated your squat technique out of curiosity?


Thanks for the reply.

I have had my squat technique evaluated by myself on video, and by a number off powerlifters at my gym.


Sorry I made a bit off a mess of quoteing you there, havent done it before. Hope you can make sense of it!


No worries with the quotation.

I still am curious with you stating that the discs were wider, I wonder if they are bulging or not. With your mechanism of injury, and also sport history (rugby especially), I would definitely follow doctor's advise. With the assault, there would be a mess load of possibilities of injury.

I would not rule out pilates as a source of rehabilitation. I'm not fond of 100% of pilates based routines, but there is a lot of benefit to the bulk of its routines. If anything, don't shy away from some hip specific rehabilitation drills along with lumbar stability rehabilitation drills.

Best of luck with it all!


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hello BBB nice to see a fellow welshman on the boards,i suffer greatly from lower back pain due to worn discs and curveture of the lower spine i have been unable to work or use the gym for 2years,i ve had epidurals which didn t work,a2nd consultant could not operate,i use tramodol and morphine patches but they don t work and i m in constant pain,i mentioned adquane to my consultant and he said it s no good,i ve read good reviews about it and would like to try it,what are side effects if it doesnot work,will it do more damage,i am at the end of my tether and dont think i can handle this pain for the rest of my life,the nhs are crap can you provide me with any info,cheers for your help


Thanks BBB, I was hoping you would chime in.
I will try and get my hands on copies off the MRI scan, im sure it would be possible.
The only squat video I have was my going for a max and was posted directly to my facebook, I am more than happy for anyone to watch if they want, just pm me for my email address. But my next session is a squat session so I will hopefully be able to get a couple off good videos then.
My pain is recurring quite frequently now on my right hip, it kind off feels as though someone is pressing in a kind of circle, made up off different points around where my femur inserts into my hip socket. If I can come up with a better description i'll post it.
Also my back cracks regulary, the whole way up right into my neck, I'm not sure if that is relevant.
Other than that I get pain exactly the same on my other hip, and down the outside off my leg to my knee.
Thank you everyone for you're help