Lifting with Back Problems

I am a 35-yr old Army Major with about 15 years of lifting under my belt. I was just diagnosed with a bulging L4 disc and a foraminal and lateral disc herniation at my L5. I have been experiencing pain mostly on the right side of my lower back for the last 8 months. I have adjusted my training routine to eliminate back hypers, deadlifts and any standing lifts. In addition, my doc has asked that I stay away from lifting and running all together. In the last couple of weeks I have incorporated swimming for cardio alternating lifting and cardio days, but I can feel myself getting weaker and I am dying to spend more time in the gym. Is there a simple way to maintain or gain strength and still salvage my back?

I have a bad disc, pain only on one side as well,… been about 2 years now. I adjusted my training as follows…

1- No full deads, I occassionally do partials (the top part) and only with dumbells. (I try to get a good crunching/squeeze out of these)
2- extensions before squats, this cuts down on my strength, and I can’t squat heavy even if I wanted to (no back strain!)
3- Militaries on a smith machine, locks me into a groove, and I don’t feel the need to cheat/arch my back while trying to power up the weight.
4-Seated Laterals. you can’t swing the weights up like you can if you do standing laterals.

I alays have my belt with me, but I try never to use it. Occassionally towards the end of a workout, if I’m getting a little ‘achey’, but otherwise it just serves as a place-holder by my weights.

I had the same problem and had the herniation removed surgically five years ago; was back training and riding horses in three weeks and have been great ever since. I understand they can do the procedure arthroscopically now. My herniation was compressing the sciatic nerve and I would have lost the use of my left foot if I had not had it fixed. For the four years prior to surgery, I had tried everything, chiroptacty, acupunture, massage, epidural shots, etc., but nothing worked so I bit the bullit and went under the knife. I’m glad I did.