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Herniated Disc/Sciatica Pain Improvement w/ Training

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  • Herniated Disc/Sciatica Pain Improvement w/ Training

    When I was 18 I had an MRI that showed a ruptured/herniated disc (L4 or L5, can't remember now). I had pretty bad pain that was diagnosed as sciatica via a nerve test (shooting pain all the way down into the foot). I had trained consistently for about 4 years but had slowly become less and less active in the gym due to my pain and finding other things, like girls and beer, more interesting. My family doc and the doctor at the pain clinic who showed me the results of my MRI both advised me to lay low, try muscle relaxers for 6 months and definitely DO NOT LIFT. In retrospect, it was all downhill from there. About 6 years later I was not in great shape and decided to try training again. Always conscious of my poor, feeble back, I trained around it as best I could. Eventually I got tired of feeling like an old man and decided to start Stronglifts; I had some reservations about deadlifting and squatting but I thought, "this is bullshit, you're only 24. You can do this". Everything went well for a month and a half or so, but eventually I started to experience more pain as I added weight to the bar. Dejected, I threw in the towel and slowly stopped working out all together, again.

    I turned 29 last November and realized if I didn't start taking better care of myself I probably wouldn't be happy with the results. I found BBM via Alan Thrall and Dr. Baraki's information about pain and pain science, as well as a few Q&As Dr. Feigenbaum answered about injuries, gave me a new perspective and level of confidence to train. I bought a squat rack and dusted off the weight set I'd been lugging around the last 10 years. At first I had an increase in acute pain, but it generally settled out quickly and I tried to be objective about it when I experienced it- I wasn't "injured" to t he point I couldn't move or train, just a little more sore than usual, but then I hadn't lifted much more than my kids in a long time. I began a NLP program in September and my numbers aren't great, but what I've noticed is that as I've trained the DL and Squat and added more weight to the bar my back pain has actually almost vanished. Going from chronic pain to actually forgetting there's anything wrong with my back has been more of a gain than strength and muscle. And had it not been for the docs here at BBM I might not have had the courage to push through and load the bar, so thanks to BBM for helping me get my life back.

    I can't speak for everyone, and my diagnosis was a long time ago, but for me the barbell really has been medicinal. And thanks to the info here I know that even if I reach a point where I can't pull from the floor without problems, it doesn't mean I have to quit. I always loved lifting, its one of the only forms of exercise I was ever able to be consistent with, and making it a part of my life again has been like running into an old friend I thought I'd never see.

  • #2
    I can pretty much agree with you there buddy. I had my scare at the doctors pretty much the same way as you did and at the same age of 18. Only difference would be that I continued to lift and difference being that i didn’t squat, deadlift, row or press. I’m glad you’ve found your way brother.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by rks00 View Post
      When I was 18 I had an MRI that showed a ruptured/herniated disc (L4 or L5, can't remember now). I had pretty bad pain that was diagnosed as sciatica via a nerve test (shooting pain all the way down into the foot). I had trained consistently for about 4 years but had slowly become less and less active in the gym due to my pain and finding other things, like girls and beer, more interesting. My family doc and the doctor at the pain clinic who showed me the results of my MRI both advised me to lay low, try muscle relaxers for 6 months and definitely DO NOT LIFT. In retrospect, it was all downhill from there. About 6 years later I was not in great shape and decided to try training again. Always conscious of my poor, feeble back, I trained around it as best I could. Eventually I got tired of feeling like an old man and decided to start Stronglifts; I had some reservations about deadlifting and squatting but I thought, "this is bullshit, you're only 24. You can do this". Everything went well for a month and a half or so, but eventually I started to experience more pain as I added weight to the bar. Dejected, I threw in the towel and slowly stopped working out all together, again.

      I turned 29 last November and realized if I didn't start taking better care of myself I probably wouldn't be happy with the results. I found BBM via Alan Thrall and Dr. Baraki's information about pain and pain science, as well as a few Q&As Dr. Feigenbaum answered about injuries, gave me a new perspective and level of confidence to train. I bought a squat rack and dusted off the weight set I'd been lugging around the last 10 years. At first I had an increase in acute pain, but it generally settled out quickly and I tried to be objective about it when I experienced it- I wasn't "injured" to t he point I couldn't move or train, just a little more sore than usual, but then I hadn't lifted much more than my kids in a long time. I began a NLP program in September and my numbers aren't great, but what I've noticed is that as I've trained the DL and Squat and added more weight to the bar my back pain has actually almost vanished. Going from chronic pain to actually forgetting there's anything wrong with my back has been more of a gain than strength and muscle. And had it not been for the docs here at BBM I might not have had the courage to push through and load the bar, so thanks to BBM for helping me get my life back.

      I can't speak for everyone, and my diagnosis was a long time ago, but for me the barbell really has been medicinal. And thanks to the info here I know that even if I reach a point where I can't pull from the floor without problems, it doesn't mean I have to quit. I always loved lifting, its one of the only forms of exercise I was ever able to be consistent with, and making it a part of my life again has been like running into an old friend I thought I'd never see.
      rks00 , thanks for sharing your story. It's awesome to hear about the impact we are having at Barbell Medicine. Glad you are back to doing the things you enjoy. Good work!

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      • #4
        Inspiring post. I'm in a similar situation over here. I had my herniated disc diagnosed back in 2016 after I had just started NLP and got into lifting. It was strange because although I was in mild pain before the diagnosis, it was only after I heard from the doctor that I shouldn't lift or do any intense exercise was when the pain became quite debilitating. I was literally nocebo'd by the doctor right there!

        One thing I did was take a six month break and I healed pretty much back to normal. It was only after returning to the lifts and doing them (what I thought was) in an incorrect manner is where I kept relapsing back to pain. To keep a long story short, I went through this cycle of healing, restarting NLP and relapsing in pain so to restart NLP again. The main issue for me was that I lived in the middle of nowhere and there wasn't anyone at hand who understood the proper biomechanics of compound lifts to give reassuring advice. A lot of the 'gym bros' were saying things like 'You hurt your back! You should just do leg press instead of squats.". Me being quite stubborn, I was adamant they were wrong and kept doing what I was doing anyway with everyone thinking I was insane. It was tough but each time I went through this pain cycle I got better at the lifts and the pain got markedly less debilitating so I figured I might as well keep moving forward.

        It was only until getting proper coaching and hearing the philosophy of BBM is when I realised that whatever 'pain' I was having was quite normal. I've still had issues with pain outside of the lifting environment but it is getting remarkably better to the point that I can tell most of my pain has been from nocebo and the 'fear of injury' rather than any real injury. Now I'm just finishing up on my NLP before moving on to the Bridge, where previously I'd call it quits from 'pain' whenever my squat got near a mere 100kg.

        Sidenote: I have a hypothesis that a lot of my pain was just my muscles tightening up at the previously injured area in order to 'protect' me from future injury. It's a peculiar feeling to have mild pain before a heavy set of deadlifts but to feel very flexible and normal right after them. It's almost as if the deadlifts were the catalyst necessary to tell my body to 'stop worrying' since if they can help lift a heavy weight off the ground without pain then something must be right. I think the body just needs a prompt from the external environment to understand this, it's almost like it doesn't listen to the concious mind until it gets enough of those prompts from you lifting those weights.

        In short, thank you BBM!

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        • #5
          And I at a week shy of 57 had the same diagnosis slapped on me less than a week ago & sans any imaging. Funny how within less a week I am back to regular training with no ill effects. BBM has taught me so much and on some level, I am grateful for this lesson I experienced
          Last edited by c1sarena; 01-22-2019, 02:42 AM.

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          • #6
            I ruptured the disk at L3 in July2015. This came on suddenly at the bottom of a warm-up squat with 155 lbs. The pain was so severe acutely that I had to sit down. I went through the remainder of my workout, then stayed out of the gym for a while. I continued to work, and occasionally ride my bike, but I noticed that my left leg was weak and I was losing muscle in the leg. At this point I sought medical attention, and thats when the disk rupture was identified. I never took anything stronger than an occasional Ibuprofen, and went back to machine based strength training. Been doing well for several years, and saw the SS stuff on Utube. I contacted Dr. Sullivan, who didn't think there would be any reason not to squat. I was still leery of doing so, without direct instruction. To make a long story short, I was able to book a session with Alan Thrall, who was excellent in instructing on the basic lifts. I've been doing a slow progression since then. I'm a former bike racer, so currently I train on the bike 3 x week and lift once a week. Have been getting stronger and putting on some muscle. Occasionally i have some discomfort in my back, but my leg strength has recovered and I have no pain with squats or deadlifts.

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