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Unusual Lower Back Pain Symptoms

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  • Unusual Lower Back Pain Symptoms

    Hi, have been through the Pain in Training: What Do? article and all the other information you at BBM offer on pain science and rehab that I could find. (All awesome, btw, and all the crew at BBM are just incredible in the work they do. Can't express my gratitude enough for all the help that everyone at BBM has been to me and friends who lift.)

    Not wanting to be a bother, I'm turning to the forums as a last resort, as I haven't managed to find anything that mentions symptoms like my own and am at a bit of a dead end for ideas on how to treat them. Advance warning that this post might well get a bit long and rambly...

    I have had none of the "red flag" symptoms mentioned by Austin in the PiT: WD? article.

    For background, I started lifting on the Starting Strength LP around three years ago and whilst grinding out my fahves of squats, began to experience a non-specific cramping-type pain in my lower back. My mentality at the time was "no pain, no gain" and, due to other life stuff at the time and the gym being my only real escape, I just kept grinding through my fahves @10 and convinced myself that a bit of pain was natural. (Exceptionally stupid, I know.)
    Eventually, these cramping and stiffness symptoms became so bad that walking and rising from a chair was painful and I quit the gym shortly before university. I later visited a GP and was referred to a physiotherapist, who reassured me that I had no signs of anything seriously wrong upon inspection of my lower back and range of motion and told me to stretch regularly and keep moving, as things had been improving slowly over time. My symptoms alleviated naturally over time, though I experienced a small amount of pain when sitting for long-ish periods without moving for many months after.

    Two years on, I started lifting again on a more conservative LP type program last August and everything went fairly smoothly up until gyms shutting for CoViD in March, with some good progress and, as far as I remember, no issues with my lower back that arrested progress.

    Returning to training end of last month, I was conservative my first week, sticking to a single @7 or so to gauge what I'd lost after warming up and then sticking to @6/7 for a little while. After this I'll admit to getting somewhat overenthusiastic after jumping back onto The Bridge 1.0, but had no issues besides some DOMS and soreness from the new stress.

    This is when, building up to within 30 or so pounds of my previous deadlift numbers, similar cramping symptoms started again. At first, it was very tolerable, just some tightness, and I put it down to training stress and just being a transient ache. Over a couple weeks, symptoms worsened until deadlifting heavy was impossible without 5-7min+ rests between and then began occurring after squat sets.

    Currently, my symptoms manifest as a painful non-specific cramping-like sensation that creeps in after deadlifting or squatting with loads at around 85%. This seems to happen more immediately with deadlifts than squats. I experience no loss of strength whatsoever, but my back progressively tightens up and becomes more painful until bending down, even just to unload the bar, is so unpleasant that I have to sit and rest for a few minutes and have to extend rests between deadlift sets. I could still perform a heavy deadlift, for example, but throughout the ascent, experience a particularly painful dull ache in my lower back. What is unusual is that these symptoms appear after squatting or deadlifting and worsen even just from standing afterwards, to the point where I feel like my lumbar spine is in extension involuntarily just from standing. Sitting immediately seems to remedy symptoms and then, after a few minutes just perched on the spotter arm, I can stand and move again fairly normally with just a little tightness.

    I've recently extended my sets of deadlifts and squats to beltless 8'[email protected] and this allowed me to keep training for a couple weeks at a level that can drive adaptations, having signed up for my first PL meet in Feb, but very much wanting to focus on rehabbing my back at the cost of potential meet performance over my current total, if necessary. I'm not so worried about meet day, as just a single with rest afterwards, even at high intensity, doesn't seem to cause any problems.

    Last week, after some GainZzz, I deadlifted sets of 8 at a load that had previously caused pain during belted sets of 5 with only a little tightness and no worsening of symptoms and this felt like a big step in the right direction. I was also able to run and sprint on a treadmill without lower back discomfort, which previously had been mildly painful and was a big concern as I'm currently preparing for a Naval fitness test. Back rehab-wise, things were fairly a-okay over the two weeks since extending my rep ranges and lowering intensity and I was feeling very positive.

    Moving on to this week, I've now experienced mild (only very slightly irritating) back discomfort and tightness all week, alleviated immediately by sitting, and upon deadlifting for 8's today at a load which was previously no trouble, experienced fairly pronounced cramping and discomfort and cut two sets from the deadlifts programmed. This time, the pain felt more localized on the left side of the spine, which was fairly unusual. The lifts felt easy and things were fairly bearable during the sets, but the cramping forced me to sit between sets. The tightness continued as usual after I finished deadlifting and through my warm up sets of bench, making holding an arch mildly uncomfortable. Then, oddly enough, after a single set of 5's of bench press @8, symptoms pretty much completely resolved spontaneously and I was without pain or tightness and had only a little sensitivity upon standing up, though some dull aching did return a little later in my workout.

    At this point, I'm at a bit of a loss over what to do. I understand the recommendation is to select exercises that lead to static or improving symptoms over a 24-48 hour period, but doing so is very troublesome owing to the odd nature of things. Hoping that maybe someone has seen anything like this before and/or has any advice that can help me continue training in a way that can improve my symptoms and, hopefully, keep preparing for meet day and driving up my singles.

  • #2
    Originally posted by vequalshubbled View Post
    Hi, have been through the Pain in Training: What Do? article and all the other information you at BBM offer on pain science and rehab that I could find. (All awesome, btw, and all the crew at BBM are just incredible in the work they do. Can't express my gratitude enough for all the help that everyone at BBM has been to me and friends who lift.)
    Hey vequalshubbled - sorry to hear about your persistent low back symptoms. The pain in training article is meant as general advice. However, in this context I think you'd likely benefit from a consultation with us so we can address your concerns and create an individualized plan to help with your experience and progress towards your goals. If you are interested in having a remote consultation with us, please complete the intake form HERE.