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  1. #1
    Registered User bjc9's Avatar
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    Back problems aka Bulged/Herniated Discs. My experience and advice.

    I thought I would write a quick thread on my experiences with back pain, in the hope that others who have the same problem can read it and take some advice from it, as I think this issue is common with us BBers.

    Back Pain

    It has many causes I suppose, I'm no doctor but one thing is for sure when it comes to your back: pain is bad. Get it checked immediately.

    That is lesson #1. Don't muck about. See your doctor and get an CT Scan done.

    My Experience

    I'll tell you my experience with my back: I've been training 5 or 6 years now, and a lot of that has been trial and error, especially learning new exercises. Like a lot of you, I've never used personal trainers other than a casual "can you check my form", and so trial and error has helped me learn exercises from what I have read and seen pictures of, to what I do during my workouts. I'm also a tall guy, which means things can be a little harder, but this will apply for everyone.

    The first time I got back pain that I remember was when I started doing the Leg Press. I was doing a heavy back and curled my back as a cheating motion. My form was not very strict, obviously. This movement is VERY bad, you are basically using your spine as a spring to launch the weights up. Bad, bad, bad... The pain was mild but it took a couple of weeks to recover.

    The next time I remember getting pain, and this was at least 3 years ago, was doing squats. I guess my form wasn't perfect and I got mild pain again. I rested again and it went away. This whole time I thought this kind of pain was normal and since it went away I didn't worry about it.

    Fast forward to last year, 2009. I'm pushing myself to build my back and started a lot of new exercises. In addition to Squats and Deadlifts (both which can put pressure on your lumbar) I am doing:
    • Bent Over Rows
    • Good Mornings
    • Straight-leg Deadlifts
    • Hyper extensions

    ^^ These are all exercises which can place tremendous pressure on your lower back.

    And so I started getting the pain... and like all the times previous, I figured it was "normal" and just worked through it. It started getting worse, and worse -- and I kept pushing through it. Eventually it got so bad my weights started dropping, and I couldn't do deadlifts anymore. What the **** is happening? I'm in pain CONSTANTLY. Finally I go to the doctor and he sends me for a CT scan.

    The tests come back - I have several Bulged Discs in my Lumbar area (the bottom 5 vertebrae).

    TL;DR: I've always had some backpain, but I've always ignored it till it went away. Then it didn't go away, so I got a CT and they said I had some bulged discs.

    What is a bulged disc?

    It was explained to me like this: In between your vertebrae are discs, and these discs are like Jelly-filled donuts. They are round and squashy, and basically serve as a cushion between the vertebrae. Inside the discs is a fluid, like the jelly in the donut.

    Here is a diagram -- its not meant to be to scale or anything but it should make things clear:



    So you have the discs and vertebrae, and then you have the Sciatic nerve which runs from the lower back, down the buttocks to the lower leg. The Sciatic nerve is pretty close to the spine.

    So as you probably know the discs in the back can be damaged from excessive pressure, like when you bend over to pick up a heavy weight (i.e. lift with your legs!). But even with proper precautions you can still have problems. Once the disc is damaged it is like you stepped on a donut -- it isn't round any more, it is a little warped. But the jelly filling is still inside! This is called a Bulged Disc. It looks something like this:



    Once the disc touches the Nerve then you start to have problems. Pain is most common, and some people will get a referred pain in the buttocks or legs. Some people will lose stength in their legs. There are varying levels of severity. Personally -- I got referred pain in my buttocks but I didn't lose leg strength.

    It is important to note that once a disc is bulged is is permanent. There is no way to repair a bulged disc. Surgery is too risky except in severe cases, so you are stuck with it for life. If you are like me you freaked the **** out at this point. Pain for the rest of your life and no more power lifting exercises? Luckily for us that isn't the case. More on that in a sec.

    I wanted to quickly show this diagram:



    This is a Disc Herniation. This is where you squashed the donut so much that the jelly filling has come out. This is more serious. I don't know much about this but I wanted to illustrate what it is so you are familiar with the term.

    Fixing a Bulged Disc

    OK, so now I'll tell you how you can fix the pain and problems associated with a Bulged Disc. As I said, you cannot fix the disc itself, it is damaged permenantly. Treatment is based on removing the pressure from the Sciatic nerve, which is what is causing all the trouble.

    Step 1: STOP ALL EXERCISES related to the pain. That will probably mean your entire back workout will need to be done with machines (it sucks, but its necessary)
    Step 2: See a good Physiotherapist. DO NOT see a Chiropractor. They will likely damage it further.
    Step 3: Do the ****ing exercises the Physio told you to do.
    Step 4: Rest up.

    I researched for my Physio quite thoroughly, I finally settled on a guy who had many years experience, had been the contracted Physio for a pro-level sports team, and even had a stint as the head of spinal injuries at a major hospital. He wasn't cheap, but I only had to see him TWICE.

    The first time he did some manipulative stuff (moving and cracking the joints). This was because the injury had made everything very stiff. He also assessed my flexibility to ascertain any direct cause. He gave me a deep massage, especially on the buttocks (the nerve goes down the buttocks), and then gave me some basic level exercises for flexibility and strength.

    Immediately I felt better and the exercises started to take away the pain. After 3 days, I **** you not -- the pain which was daily for the last several months was gone. I went back for a second session two weeks later -- he did the same again and gave me a set of more advanced exercises. They focus on strengthening the lower back, extending the flexibility of the hip flexors and quadriceps, as well as spinal stretches. I've been doing these daily ever since.

    I have not had pain since then. Last night I did Bent Over rows for the first time in 6 months. No pain. I didn't go heavy, but its a start.

    And another thing -- once you start getting better, wear a lifting belt. It will help keep things aligned and prevent another problem.

    Let me know if you have any questions, but I hope this has been helped for those of you facing a similar injury.
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  2. #2
    Below Me WibbleWabble's Avatar
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    awesome write-up bro. what sort of exercises/stretching is he having you do?
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    Registered User Logical95's Avatar
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    Yes what did the physio have you do that you feel so much better now? What kinds of stretches and exercises? I might try some....

    I have a lower back problem that i got deadlifting and I am seeing an ortho about it now.....the x-rays were negative, but he wants me to get a month of physical therapy before he sends me for an expensive MRI.....

    He said most back problems are related to tight hamstrings and gluteus/piriformis muscles so he suspects I also could have piriformis syndrome or sacro-iliac joint inflammation....
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    Below Me WibbleWabble's Avatar
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    i would amend one thing in your write-up. that is in your list of exercises you say that hyper-extensions place "tremendous pressure" on the vertebrae and you list them along with squats and deadlifts. i have to disagree on that. hyperextensions do not compress the back at all. they are helpful for someone with a herniated or bulging disc- not to be avoided.

    .02

    also, you mention getting "CT" scans, are you sure you don't mean MRI?
    Last edited by WibbleWabble; 03-10-2010 at 01:21 PM.
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  5. #5
    Registered User bjc9's Avatar
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    I don't have any problems telling you guys but it might not work for you, it might even make it worse. I ain't no doctor! I have anterior bulges but its more common to have posterior bulges, so that is one thing to consider.

    Basically the exercises are there is stretch your hip flexors and improve your back mobility and strength.

    The basic exercises (for when you have a sore back) are, with your back flat on the floor:
    • Hug your knees to your chest one at a time, while keeping the other leg flat on the floor
    • Put your knees together in the air with your feet flat on the ground, and roll your hips backwards and forwards (i.e. from a back-arch to an ab contraction)
    • Put your knees together in the air with your feet flat on the ground, and rock your legs from side to side, gradually getting closer to the floor

    I was told to do the above twice a day, with 5 reps of each exercise. Only takes a couple of mins.

    Once my back was feeling better I got more advanced exercises, which did the same things but to a higher degree.
    • Instead of hugging your knee, you bring your knee to your chest but put your foot in the air, and hold the ball of your foot with one hand.
    • Instead of rolling your hips on the ground, get on your hands and knees and rock from an ab contraction to a back arch (on your hands and knees gives you more mobility)
    • Instead of rocking your knees back and forth, do this one: http://imgur.com/hRaCj.gif
    • Add in this exercise: http://imgur.com/oQKhc.jpg (another hip flexor stretch)
    • And add in this or strength: http://imgur.com/yZC8q.jpg (Notice the legs are on the ground -- DO NOT do "superman" where you raise both torso and legs, it puts too much pressure on the spine. Only raise the torso or legs one at a time)

    Hoope this helps and is not too confusing. But seriously, go see a Physio to get exercises tailored for your situation. These exercises may not work for and may aggravate your injury. I can take no responsibility, obviously.
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  6. #6
    Registered User bjc9's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by WibbleWabble View Post
    i would amend one thing in your write-up. that is in your list of exercises you say that hyper-extensions place "tremendous pressure" on the vertebrae and you list them along with squats and deadlifts. i have to disagree on that. hyperextensions do not compress the back at all. they are helpful for someone with a herniated or bulging disc- not to be avoided.

    .02

    also, you mention getting "CT" scans, are you sure you don't mean MRI?
    Yeah, you're probably right. It is safe as a bodyweight exercise. But it is still possible for those who overextend or do the exercise with weights to experience issues.

    And I did mean CT scans, aka a "CAT scan". A CT scan is like a fancy X-Ray, and is a cheap diagnosis tool compared to an MRI, which is probably complete overkill. I'm not a doctor, of course, but this is what I understand the difference to be.
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  7. #7
    I'm not fat, just puffy! maiqx's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info, you`re right about the exercises, might not work if you`re hurt, but probably a very good prevention method. Repped
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    Very sorry for the late bump, but I have the same problem. Do any of you lift with a bulged disc? If you do, what exercises do you perform or avoid? Thanks
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    Originally Posted by bjc9 View Post
    • Bent Over Rows
    • Good Mornings
    • Straight-leg Deadlifts
    • Hyper extensions

    ^^ These are all exercises which can place tremendous pressure on your lower back.
    Old thread, but i still feel that i must correct you on this! hyperextensions doesn't place ANY axial loading on the spine, and if performed with a neutral spine (only hip hinge) it's shouldn't cause any problems for someone with an injured disc.
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    Originally Posted by Rawsteel88 View Post
    Old thread, but i still feel that i must correct you on this! hyperextensions doesn't place ANY axial loading on the spine, and if performed with a neutral spine (only hip hinge) it's shouldn't cause any problems for someone with an injured disc.
    I have a herniated disc. Hypers still bother; and that's because they have quite a high level of compressive forces (cannot recall the exact number)
    Skwat bench ded
    but still DYEL?
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