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Working around damaged discs

Turk

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Right, in a nutshell, well over a year ago i managed to damage several discs in my lower back (45kg+ infantry load + hill + gravity = bouncing & pain), which caused massive (i.e. can't stand up, wheelchair, lots of grumpyness) sciatica in both legs and pretty much ended my military career. I've managed to avoid surgery, and i would like to keep it that way.

Some 40lb of weight loss later, i'm slowly getting back in the gym, and it turns out i've completely forgotten how to work out.:confused:

I've managed to nearly get rid of the sciatica, and regain my CV fitness to an extent, but i have essential no lower back flexion (although extension is good) and very little strength in the erector muscles. Ab strength is ok, but still improving.

Anyhoos, i'm wondering if anyone has experiencing with training around this type of injury? I desperatly need to improve the strength in my lower back, the musculature is in a complete state and spasms at any hint of loading, but all i know is how to rack up a bunch of weight on a bar and grunt it up and down a few times. Needless to say i'll never be doing that again, and grunting whilst swigging a protein shake just doesn't have the same effect:p

Tried the personal trainers in my gym, but they were useless. Physios are good with helping to stop everything fall apart, but don't really understand the concept of not wanting to look like a stick insect.

Does anyone have any tips/advice/exercises/spare spines they would be willing to share?

Muchos thanks


Turk
 

Moen

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  1. Move! This is imperative since you'll get so stiff everything just gets worse. Doing cardio on an elliptical might be ideal due to no impact + you can up the resistance each time so you can ease into the weight stuff
  2. try an inversion table. Works wonders for many and avoids the not so good twist-cracks that chiropractors use

And since it seems you're already in the gym, just keep doing what you're doing. Definitely avoid deadlifts and squats contrary to what many people will tell you. Your first deadlift session might have you in a wheelchair again afterwards :D
 
Last edited:

Ehren

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I feel your pain Bro. But I have a routine that works well these days:
Ibuprofen gel
Stretching
Potassium and Magnesium.

The key is to keep the muscles and nerves from getting inflamed at all. And to keep them from getting irritated before and after training.

First: Ibuprofen GEL rubbed on in the morning (and evening before bed if needed). This isn't some icy-hot skin irritant. It works great and immediately and won't destroy your liver. I never believed it until I used it.

Stretching: Takes about 5 minutes. Morning and evening and of course before and after training. HIP stretches most importantly then quads, glutes and hams. Lower back spasms for me are almost always the result of other muscles being tight, usually hips. Then they tighten to the point that they finally cause a back spasm.

Keep Potassium and Magnesium high. Take these religiously. They go a long way toward making a spasm go away faster.
______________________________________

Training: I leg press using different foot placements and finish with leg extensions for quads. Still can't squat for more than a week or two without screwing up my back, so I think that's over. But ironically, my legs grow the best of any bodypart with the least work. Not worrying about my back allows me to focus on my quads. :eek: (BTW: Theres a video of Dorian on here somewhere saying he never squatted once through 6 Mr. Olympia Titles...if it's good enough for Dorian...)

For spinal erectors when you're stronger and feel more fit: I use one arm dumbell rows in my back training. Keep your back arched. It is not a direct downward load on the spine. but a slight twisting movement so its a good stretch too. Plus you are supported with one arm and leg on the non working side. It works well. Keeping your back arched is key and will strengthen those erectors.

Abs: Hanging leg raises. Hang off a pullup bar, keep your quads totally straight and lift them to 90 degrees then slowly lower. Do them to failure. I usually do as many sets as it takes to get to 100. 4 or 5 sets or 20-25 reps. NO BENDING OF THE KNEES. Great for lower abs and little stress on the back like situps.

Deadlifts are just not worth it, IMO. You'll get better results with a year of solid training on various movements than you would with some half-assed painful deadlift session that ends in injury.

Good luck!
 
Last edited:

Meathamer

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Hate to tell u this but surgery was vest thing for me...they told me I would never lift again or ever work at hard labor job again..... L4-L5 fussion in 01 and have had few problems and have Bern lifting ever since.....sorry to here of ur troubles but don't give up .......
 

freshsqueezed

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I know most guys are bodybuilders here but for compression injuries get with a powerlifter who has recovered from similar injuries. The best thing I can think of for you would be the reverse hyper machine. Read anything you can on the reverse hyper and restoring lower back function and strength. Louie Simmons has a good article about how he restored his ability to squat and deadlift with the reverse hyper. I would focus on getting your back restored and strong. No compressive forces for awhile 6-9 months while you use the reverse hyper. Maybe go see a more advanced chiro that does something like DRS. Best of luck.
 

Turk

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Hate to tell u this but surgery was vest thing for me
If i could go back to day one, stick my hand up and say can you just take the damned thing out i would do knowing what i had ahead of me.



Cheers for the advice guys, much appreciated, a few things that i hadn't considered so will give them a try out.:)
 

Silencer

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Turk, already some good advice given in this thread. I have two bulging discs, not as bad as yours, but still enough that if I slip up, I can't move or get out of bed some days.

Squats are done. I did find that front squats, because of the upright position, were ok as long as I didn't go extremely heavy. I literally started with just the bar, working on flexibility to get the form down perfectly. If I go above 225, the back starts to hurt, so I keep things light.

Deadlifts are impossible -- even partials, racks, smith machines, etc. I tried every variation because I didn't want to give them up, and each time it cost me at LEAST a week out of the gym from back pain. Just have to deal with the fact. Now I do pullups (great for width; wish I did these a lot sooner!) and back rows where my chest is supported, like Hammer Row machines. That way I don't accidentally lean too far forward when I'm tired on the last rep or two and inflame my discs.

Avoid shoulder pressing any weight that causes you to arch too aggressively. I know that's not correct form, but most people will arch to a degree, esp trying to get that last rep.

Don't go all the way down on leg press. You don't have to do 1/4 presses like all the guys everyone makes fun of, but do not go lower than where your lower back starts to round and lift off the support. Prob 3/4 of a full knees-to-chest press.

And like someone posted -- stretches. I hate doing them every day before bed and after my workouts, but they are mandatory.

Just a few tips. Hope these help.
 

Turk

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I feel your pain Bro. But I have a routine that works well these days:
Ibuprofen gel
Stretching
Potassium and Magnesium.
I've been taking the potassium and magnesium with breakfast for the past few days, amazing difference, the muscles feel so much better. Spasms and cramps are pretty much gone!:)
 

totalrecomp

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If you get sick of taking the magnesium pills and want a change of pace these drinks make for a really nice herbal tea like drink. They also work very well and are both quality. Many satisfied customers.



 

cooper250

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hammer strength machines and any other brand for that matter.free weights are hard to manage with a bad back.no way around it.
 

RationalGaze

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I know most guys are bodybuilders here but for compression injuries get with a powerlifter who has recovered from similar injuries. The best thing I can think of for you would be the reverse hyper machine. Read anything you can on the reverse hyper and restoring lower back function and strength. Louie Simmons has a good article about how he restored his ability to squat and deadlift with the reverse hyper. I would focus on getting your back restored and strong. No compressive forces for awhile 6-9 months while you use the reverse hyper. Maybe go see a more advanced chiro that does something like DRS. Best of luck.
Great advice. Along with the reverse hyper, lots of rolling on a foam roller or PVC pipe to get rid of the adhesions and tension that will build up in the errectors and glutes when they overcompensate for the disk injury. Spend a lot of time working on your lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Along with the reverse hyper, things like arched back light good mornings, glute ham raises, regular hyperextensions, lunges, squats and deadlifts will work. Make sure you do a lot of warmup and prep movements. Eric Cressey has a great video called Magnificent Mobility that will help with this.

There are plenty of people that lift heavy with disk herniations, myself included. You just have to know how to work around it and keep the supporting areas strong and mobile at the same time.
 

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