T Nation

Ruined My Low Back

 A little over a year ago I destroyed my low back sumo deadlifting. It was my last set with 415 on the bar, got it about 2 inches off the ground and heard an audible pop at the base of my spine. It was the worse pain I have ever experienced. I was out for the count with severe back pain and instant sciatica through my hip/buttocks region all the way down my left leg to the foot.

Anyway I got an x-ray 3 months later and I have a spondylolysis at L5-S1, I know thats where the disc popped also. Just got an MRI last week so I am still waiting for the report. Just from looking at the MRI scan I can see the L5-S1 disc is much darker than the rest (google says that means degenerated/dehydrated). The pain I am dealing with is just a constant deep ache when standing/working for longer than 15 min. Sitting is annoying too but much more tolerable.

I still workout regularly I just don't dead/squat anymore. I am thinking about easing back into them or variations. I just deadlifted 225 for 5x5 regular stance yesterday and felt a lot of pressure on the disc in that area, did not feel good.

 Six months after the injury I started doing Stuart Mcgill's big 3 and noticed a decrease in pain and slight increase in work capacity. I seen a physical therapist last month for the 1st time and it was a joke. How can you help someone with back pain if you do not assess the way they move, sit, stand look at posture/muscle imbalances. Just bought a reverse hyper to help strengthen my posterior chain even more.

Has anyone else had these symptoms and found relief or am I a lifer now? I know there are a bunch of people that have come back from these injures stronger (Louie Simmons, Brian Carroll just to name a few). It hurts my back even thinking about having 405 in my hands again. I feel like driving to Mike Robertsons place for help. I just want to be where I was before this injury, I am 24 and used to work 50-60 hour weeks regularly with my job (install flooring) now i struggle with just a regular 40 hour week. I know there are people that are way worse than me in regards to my injury so any info/responses are greatly appreciated.


Go see a different physio. One with selective functional movement assessment or something similar, if thats your fancy. Maybe see a reputable athletic trainer/therapist, they are more used to injuries like yours.

If you only have a spondy, extension is not your friend. The therapeutic exercise regimen is very, very different than a discopathy, and not one I recall off the top of my head. If you have a spondy and a disc it will be a lot of planks and straight core work. Either way, good luck.


I know every physical therapist that I want to see does not except my insurance. It’s weird though b/c if I put my back into extension I have no pain so I don’nt know if its the spondy or the herniated disc that is causing the pain. The only time i have pain in extension is if I lay on my stomach and arch my back hard, or let my hips sink. One thing I forgot to mention is I have had tight hamstrings since elementary school. No matter how much I stretch them they never loosen up, but I read chronically tight hamstrings is a symptom of spondy patients.


If you get desperate, back tweaks (or lower back tweaks), by Kelly are a reasonable stop gap (search YouTube) .


Got my MRI report in today. The L1-2, L2-3, L3-4 and L4-5 disc levels are all normal. I’m really happy about that since I thought there may have been damage at other levels. L5-S1 shows degenerative disc disease with disc bulge and posterior annular tear. There is spondylolysis of L5 with minimal spondylolisthesis at L5-S1 causing mild foraminal narrowing. Thanks for the input guys I will have to try those stretches out and see if they help anything. Rogue reverse hyper is coming in on wednesday so I’m really pumped about that. I know that Mcgill does not recommend them b/c of the shear stress but I really do not have any pain performing them so I figured why not. I have a ghetto version with 2-2x12 that I laid across my power-rack and have been using.


Could be worse…that bottom disc is the one that popped its darker with less water content.


Scotty dog


There is another MRI protocol that can help determine if the spondylo is the pain-producer or not. It’s called a STIR series, where the fat signal is filtered out more and water content is more evident. It is very useful in detecting edema. If the area around the pars (scotty dog) is “lit up” with edema, the spondylo is the likely culprit. If there is no edema, that’s not your pain producer.


Thank you for your response. I went to see an orthopedic specialist today. I should have asked about the STIR series MRI but forgot. She really didn’t make any sense and I don’t think she understood the mechanism of the injury. When I said I injured it deadlifting she lifted her arms up in a power-clean motion to imitate what she thought was a deadllift and say’s, “Yea to get the weight up you go into hyper-extension” lol.

I’m not an expert but from what I have been reading a disc is usually blown out from flexion. She said I could have tried to get the stress fracture to heal by going into a back brace a year ago. Also that it probably will not heal now since it is already a year old. I wanted to get an epidural injection but she stated it is mainly for leg pain and cortisone is not really going to help. This specialist also does not think it is disc pain because I quote, “Disc pain usually goes down the legs.” So your telling me that a desiccated disc with a large annular tear cannot cause chronic LBP? I didn’t say that to her but then I asked, so you think it’s the fracture?

To which she replied, “no everything is settled down and it is just low back pain.” Did not seem too concerned about finding the pain source and gave me a script for PT. Going to take dzmendon’s advice and look for a sports PT.


My experience with most run of the mill ‘clinical advisers’, is they love to assume you’re completely negligent and utterly brain dead. They also don’t care about your well-being and just want a cause and a cure ASAP. Seems to be the case with your recent visit, and I’m sorry for that. It’s not easy finding a really good physio, but they’re out there. Hope you tie these loose ends up man, and get back on the horse.


I would say you hit the nail on the head with that statement. Thanks for the words of encouragement, hopefully I will be able to find a good physio this time around. I will say that I have been experimenting with Kelly Starrett’s hamstring flossing w/ band distraction and I feel like that has helped with the low back discomfort I am experiencing while deadlifting. I can pretty much get to 90 degrees with a lying straight leg raise after warming up with them.