I am 41 and herniated a disc (L4-S1) in 2001. I am sure it's from all the years of heavy squatting. Compression on the spine is usually the culprit. I had no major symptons up to the point the disc ruptured.
Believe it or not I was in a marina at a lake putting on a full wetsuit. We were riding wave runners during the 1st week of March. I went to throw the zipper cord over my shoulder and when I did the quick bend forward I felt the worse pain in my lower back. I hit the floor before I knew what was going on! After 15 minutes or so I was up, pain gradually went away, rode the wave runners, and then played 2 days of golf. (HUGE MISTAKE). Monday morning I went to get out of bed and took 1 step and hit the floor. The only way I could dull the pain was to lie in the fetal position with my left leg pulled to my chest. After 3 series of steroid epidurals directly in the disc over the next 12 weeks I decided I needed to consider another treatment. The epidurals hurt like HELL and all they did was mask the pain. I was unable to work out for the entire 12 weeks. Never took a break from working out for that long since I started working out at 14 so I was desperate.
Through a lot of research I saw a local doctor who at that time was only 1 of about 5 doctors in the entire country who performed a procedure called a microdiscectomy. The procedure is more common now and more doctors have jumped on the wagon. My regular orthopedic doc was completely against it and wanted to do the normal disc surgery (cut your entire back open including cutting muscle) which was up to 6 month recovery. He claimed the other procedure was experimental. I went with the micro-doc which had performed 750 of them, I was 751. He claimed within 8-12 weeks I would be able to workout again and be back to normal for the most part. Surgery took about 2 1/2 - 3 hours. I was awake but the drugs were really good... they wouldn't let me take any home though. They make small 1/2" incisions on each side of your back just above the top of your glutes. One rod has a camera on the end and the other rod has the cutting tools attached. I didn't feel a thing (only some pressure) but I felt the exact moment during cutting that the pressure was released on the sciatic nerve. It was the best feeling. After having sciatic pain for so long I had forgotten what it felt like to not have the numbness, pain spikes , and tingling running down my leg.
The doc's recommendation on recovery therapy (lots of stretching exercises) was very aggressive but I followed the program and 6 weeks later I went on my annual golfing trip with the boys - played 3 days of golf without a hitch. My golf game actually got better because out of fear of wrenching my back I quit trying to rip the cover off the ball! I was working out within the 8th week and was back to full weights and workout within 12 weeks. I have not had a problem since although I am unable to do heavy squats and probably won't try for that matter. I did go up to 325 last week using the Smith rack but I could feel the pressure so I will have to stick to the sled and hack. Anything that doesn't compress the spine.
If you find out you have actually blown the disc for sure, then I would recommend this surgery to anyone. All the shots, chiropractic adjustments (did those also), or any other methods won't solve the problem they will just temporarily relieve the symptoms. I have 3 friends who had this doc do the procedure and they all had the same results as myself. One of them came all the way from California to have it done. You can check the doctor out here - http://www.bonematters.com/Home.htm
My doc was Dr. Reed. He has a God complex but he is good at what he does and he's got the resume to back it up.
GOOD LUCK AND GOOD LIFTING