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  • Lower back stiffness and hip pain. MRI pics and doctor advice included.

    Background info: I've been training according to SS for about 3 months by now. I gained 40 pounds, got my body fat rate from 10% to 20%, increased my squat and deadlift by 60 pounds approximately. I now weigh 180 pounds and have lower back stiffnes and hip pain.

    So I got my MRI results today. They look like this:


    I'll do my best with translating what the othopedist told me, since my native language is not English: "You have a diffusely bulging disc at L5-S1 and anterior straightening at the dural sac."
    I was terrified. He then redirected me to a brain surgeon. The brain surgeon took a look at the MRI and told me that I don't have much to worry about and the orthopedist was exaggerating. I don't know if he told so just because I was looking very terrified or if it was the case though. He also told me that my back muscles had a spasm and that I should rest, swim and do some core exercises.

    I believe that either the squats or the deadlifts caused this since my form is very questionable. Terrible at times, especially with the low-bar squat.

    So the question is, how bad is my back looking at these MRIs and what should I do? My lower back stiffnes and right hip pain are still here, so I won't train for a while. After that, would switching to high-bar squats help?

  • #2
    I am not a radiologist and cannot provide a formal interpretation of your MRI images. However, from what I can see (and based on the descriptions you were provided), I am not particularly concerned about this.

    I'm sorry this has happened to you -- it sounds like you have had a lot of unnecessary fear put into you through this process. I would not be concerned about minor disc bulges, and I would not be concerned about "muscle spasm".

    I would recommend following our recommended approaches for managing pain in the gym (see our videos on pain & injury, as well as my video on pain on Alan Thrall's channel). This means you should likely back off the intensity under the bar temporarily (but continue training), and not freak out about this situation (or freak out about your technique).

    I would also stop gaining weight, and would consider moving on to another program. Gaining 40 lbs and 10% body fat (you did not mention your before and after waist circumference, which would be important too) is not a worthwhile tradeoff for 60 lbs on a beginner's squat and deadlift.

    If you need further guidance with this process, our rehab guys would be happy to help.
    IG / YT

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post
      I would also stop gaining weight, and would consider moving on to another program. Gaining 40 lbs and 10% body fat (you did not mention your before and after waist circumference, which would be important too) is not a worthwhile tradeoff for 60 lbs on a beginner's squat and deadlift.
      My bad. I gained 40 pounds but increased my deadlift and squat by 60 kilos. I started off with an empty barbell at 60kg body weight, I now squat 85kgs at the body weight of 80kgs.

      Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post
      If you need further guidance with this process, our rehab guys would be happy to help.
      I'd love to, but I live in Turkey and as far as I know you provide guidance & coaching in the USA only.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by GorkemSahin View Post

        My bad. I gained 40 pounds but increased my deadlift and squat by 60 kilos. I started off with an empty barbell at 60kg body weight, I now squat 85kgs at the body weight of 80kgs.
        So you're squatting 85 kg at 80 kg bodyweight and 20% body fat (which is probably an under-estimate). How old are you?

        Originally posted by GorkemSahin View Post
        I'd love to, but I live in Turkey and as far as I know you provide guidance & coaching in the USA only.
        This is not the case.
        IG / YT

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post
          So you're squatting 85 kg at 80 kg bodyweight and 20% body fat (which is probably an under-estimate). How old are you?
          I'm 22. My NLP didn't go smoothly. I injured my adductors, back, hips etc. All in 3 months only.

          Comment


          • #6
            So 3 months to sustain those injuries and gain a bunch of body fat is definitely less than ideal.

            You'd probably benefit from some education and guidance through the rehab process from our rehab guys, but you can probably also do just fine on your own if you continue training, adjust your programming, and get your bodyfat back under control. And if you want some technical advice on your lifts, you can use the free unmoderated training forum below, use our free facebook group, or get some formal coaching.
            IG / YT

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post
              So 3 months to sustain those injuries and gain a bunch of body fat is definitely less than ideal.

              You'd probably benefit from some education and guidance through the rehab process from our rehab guys, but you can probably also do just fine on your own if you continue training, adjust your programming, and get your bodyfat back under control. And if you want some technical advice on your lifts, you can use the free unmoderated training forum below, use our free facebook group, or get some formal coaching.
              Thanks a lot sir. My theory is that the bulging disc is causing my hip pain right now, so it won't go away whatever I do from now on anyway. But you and the doctor said that it's not a serious disc injury, so the cause of the pain may be muscular too. I'll still try to rest for a few weeks to see if it's a muscular injury and if it heals. These few weeks also look like a good oppurtunity to cut back on the calories. I got very tired of drinking that much milk anyway.

              As far as coaching oppurtunities go, the coaches in where I live do quarter squats on the smith machine so the internet is my best bet. I'll try to utilize the forums.

              Comment


              • #8
                Based on this comment, I would strongly, strongly recommend reviewing our educational material & podcasts on pain and injury. I would also strongly recommend getting some consultation with our rehab guys.

                It is extremely unlikely that the bulging disc has anything to do with your hip pain, and I would caution you against buying into that idea.

                I would also not recommend resting for several weeks as a way to manage this situation either.

                Of course, you are free to do whatever you'd like regardless of what we say, but this is not how we recommend approaching such things.
                IG / YT

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post
                  Based on this comment, I would strongly, strongly recommend reviewing our educational material & podcasts on pain and injury. I would also strongly recommend getting some consultation with our rehab guys.

                  It is extremely unlikely that the bulging disc has anything to do with your hip pain, and I would caution you against buying into that idea.

                  I would also not recommend resting for several weeks as a way to manage this situation either.
                  I've read your article on pain perception and podcasts with Mark Rippetoe but if the hip pain doesn't go away on its own after several weeks of resting, doesn't it prove that it has something to do with my disc injury, because muscular injuries heal but discs do not? I've also noticed that if I raise my right leg it hurts a little, but I don't know if it's because of soreness or the bulging disc either. So making sure that my muscles had rest and are healed to see if the pain goes away makes sense to me. I'll go back to deadlifting etc. even if it doesn't, but at least I'll know that the pain is due to the bulging disc. I'd love to getting some consultation from your rehab guys but I'm a college student and can't afford that.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by GorkemSahin View Post
                    I've read your article on pain perception and podcasts with Mark Rippetoe but if the hip pain doesn't go away on its own after several weeks of resting, doesn't it prove that it has something to do with my disc injury, because muscular injuries heal but discs do not? I've also noticed that if I raise my right leg it hurts a little, but I don't know if it's because of soreness or the bulging disc either.
                    This is absolutely not true. We have lots and lots of evidence that disks do, in fact, heal with time.

                    Originally posted by GorkemSahin View Post
                    So making sure that my muscles had rest and are healed to see if the pain goes away makes sense to me.
                    Just because it makes sense doesn't mean it's correct.

                    Originally posted by GorkemSahin View Post
                    I'll go back to deadlifting etc. even if it doesn't, but at least I'll know that the pain is due to the bulging disc.
                    Again, no, this is not a correct conclusion. We have discussed this a lot in our content on pain, which it doesn't sound like you've actually digested.

                    I'm truly sorry you're dealing with this issue. It's really common, and we have helped a large number of people work through such things. You have our recommendations.
                    Last edited by Austin Baraki; 04-14-2019, 07:10 PM.
                    IG / YT

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm sorry if I sound goofy. I really appreciate your content, they're all super helpful. I'm just too anxious right now. I don't know if my lifting caused the bulge, it also might have happened due to just sitting incorrectly. I don't know how severe the bulge is, I don't know if lifting could further damage the disc. I don't know if the disc is causing the pain, although the pain is very mild and not very disturbing. I'm 22 years old and it seems like one ugly deadlift could be enough to herniate the disc and make me crippled for the rest of my life, but I also really want to lift. Also, what does "anterior straightening in the dural sac" mean? Is that something to worry about?

                      And I really want to thank you again for helping people out like this on the forums.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It is quite apparent that you are anxious. I can also tell that you may actually be too anxious to actually process the information we're giving you, and this fear, anxiety, and catastrophizing is also likely to be making your pain experience worse. This is one of the reasons why we generally recommend against obtaining MRIs for the majority of cases of back pain, especially when there aren't uniquely concerning features by history or examination (which it doesn't sound like you had).

                        You had back pain, underwent a (likely inappropriate) MRI, and now have these terrifying findings that are occupying your thoughts and leaving you afraid of being "crippled for the rest of your life". The majority of this fear is unwarranted.

                        Disc bulges are common and generally benign. Whether your lifting "caused" the bulge is both 1) impossible to know, and 2) completely irrelevant to your future and prognosis.

                        There is no such thing as "sitting incorrectly".

                        Deadlift do not cripple people for the rest of their lives.

                        Stop worrying about the MRI findings and get yourself moving. You must conquer this fear and anxiety -- so learn more about this stuff, whether through the resources we have put out, free information on the forums/website, or if you need individualized guidance, via consultation with our staff.

                        https://www.barbellmedicine.com/backpain/
                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oji2mfcjisk
                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdwj5ORPmX0
                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDurZ3SS8NE
                        https://www.painscience.com/articles/structuralism.php
                        http://tamethebeast.org
                        IG / YT

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post
                          It is quite apparent that you are anxious. I can also tell that you may actually be too anxious to actually process the information we're giving you, and this fear, anxiety, and catastrophizing is also likely to be making your pain experience worse. This is one of the reasons why we generally recommend against obtaining MRIs for the majority of cases of back pain, especially when there aren't uniquely concerning features by history or examination (which it doesn't sound like you had).

                          You had back pain, underwent a (likely inappropriate) MRI, and now have these terrifying findings that are occupying your thoughts and leaving you afraid of being "crippled for the rest of your life". The majority of this fear is unwarranted.
                          My experience with the orthopedist doctor was the thing that terrified me I think. He didn't even ask me any questions about the pain, let alone examining. He ordered a CT scan right away. It came out and I had nothing wrong. Then he ordered an MRI scan right away. A few days later the results came out and there it said "Diffuse disc bulge and anteriorly straightened dural sac". I get the report and bring it to the same doctor, he redirects me to the brain surgeon. There I thought "OK Görkem, the MRI shows some screwed up discs and now you are a patient of brain surgeons, you screwed your back up for good."

                          Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post
                          Disc bulges are common and generally benign. Whether your lifting "caused" the bulge is both 1) impossible to know, and 2) completely irrelevant to your future and prognosis.
                          But, if lifting weigths caused this bulge, it'd mean that they could also further damage the disc and herniate it at some point. Am I not right about that? I don't have anyone qualified to coach me in where I live so I may be doing something extremely wrong and I wouldn't know. The internet is full of people with MRI scans like Godzilla's, and some people claim that incorrectly lifting weights caused that..


                          Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post
                          Stop worrying about the MRI findings and get yourself moving. You must conquer this fear and anxiety -- so learn more about this stuff, whether through the resources we have put out, free information on the forums/website, or if you need individualized guidance, via consultation with our staff.

                          https://www.barbellmedicine.com/backpain/
                          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oji2mfcjisk
                          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdwj5ORPmX0
                          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDurZ3SS8NE
                          https://www.painscience.com/articles/structuralism.php
                          http://tamethebeast.org
                          I watched all of these and read the articles. Very helpful content. These convinced me to go back to squatting and deadlifting, with an empty bar this week. Really appreciate you taking your time and helping me out, sir. Thanks again.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by GorkemSahin View Post

                            My experience with the orthopedist doctor was the thing that terrified me I think. He didn't even ask me any questions about the pain, let alone examining. He ordered a CT scan right away. It came out and I had nothing wrong. Then he ordered an MRI scan right away. A few days later the results came out and there it said "Diffuse disc bulge and anteriorly straightened dural sac". I get the report and bring it to the same doctor, he redirects me to the brain surgeon. There I thought "OK Görkem, the MRI shows some screwed up discs and now you are a patient of brain surgeons, you screwed your back up for good."
                            All of this is wildly inappropriate.

                            Originally posted by GorkemSahin View Post
                            But, if lifting weigths caused this bulge, it'd mean that they could also further damage the disc and herniate it at some point. Am I not right about that? I don't have anyone qualified to coach me in where I live so I may be doing something extremely wrong and I wouldn't know. The internet is full of people with MRI scans like Godzilla's, and some people claim that incorrectly lifting weights caused that..
                            Stop thinking about your disc.
                            IG / YT

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Austin Baraki View Post

                              All of this is wildly inappropriate.



                              Stop thinking about your disc.
                              I still have some tingling sensation radiating down my legs at times, very rare and mild, and also stiffnes/pain in my right buttock. I'm deadlifting and squatting with empty bars, while still benching and overhead pressing heavy. I feel better in general since I re-watched and re-read the links you provided. I also got rid of lower back stiffness after getting moving, although the hip pain remains the same. Thanks a lot.

                              I'm sorry and I apologize if I'm being ignorant, stubborn and disturbing but I have a few questions left bugging me. I'd be very thankful if you could give me your opinion on whether you think these statements are true or not.

                              1-) Most people at my age (22) have this type of / amount of disc bulges.
                              2-) The disc bulge is probably not pressing against my nerves, causing something like a mild version of sciatica.
                              3-) Deadlifting and squatting will not further damage my spine so as long as I'm maintaining an extended low back.
                              4-) I've been doing spinal decompression by hanging on a chin up bar and then doing lower back extensions lying on the ground, trying to capture the bulging disc, trying to tuck my bulging disc back in. It feels uncomfortable. Would keeping doing it help or should I stop doing it?
                              5-) I'm fine.

                              Comment

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