Weightlifters understand back pain well. Weightlifters should avoid strains and pain by using a variety of techniques, including foam rolling and altered positions. If you lift weights often, there are no guarantees that your neck or back will be protected 100%. Even powerlifters who are meticulously trained in pain management and orthopedists can often be diagnosed with herniated discs.
What is a herniated-disc?
A herniated disc is when one of the gel-like capsules that lie between our vertebrae becomes inflamed or slips out of its place. Some patients may not even feel the symptoms of a herniated spine. A disc may also cause pain in the spinal nerves or surrounding tissue. This can make it difficult for weightlifters to lift weights well and can lead to chronic pain. In certain cases, the disc may compress the spinal nerve to cause numbness or tingling in the limbs.
What causes a herniated spine?
Simply by straining their backs, weightlifters can cause disc damage to their spines. The most common way to injure your back is by lifting heavier than your legs with your back muscles. Deadlifting, the most common form of exercise that can cause herniated discs, is very common.
What’s the difference between a Disc Herniation or a Bulge?
A disc herniation can involve 25% or less of the disc matter (nucleus pulposus), but disc bulges can include more than 25%. Yes, it is true. You might find it a little odd. Most people have heard that herniations cause more problems than bulges. This is because herniations do not exceed 25% of the disc’s circumference but are more likely than others to compress nerve roots due to the additional displacement of matter.
What about deadlifts and herniated Discs
Even though it’s cool to be able to see all the anatomical terms and understand the diagrams, these terms are not really relevant. Why? Because it doesn’t provide any information about whether you can deadlift using a herniated disc!
If you’re suffering from back pain, you don’t necessarily need an MRI. This is because you won’t be able to deadlift if you have back problems. You can instead use these tips to quickly relieve your back pain. If your MRI has already shown a bulging disc or herniated disc, you may still be able to deadlift. The most important thing to take away from this article is that MRIs are not able to tell you which type of treatment you should have and can often find a lot more “normal” results. Loading and programming should be based on how you feel and not what your MRI shows. Let’s discuss these “normal” findings.
Bulging discs and herniated discs are more common that you might think
Did you know that, if you’re 30 years old and have no back pain, there’s a 30% chance you may have a low-back disc herniation. It’s even more likely if you are in your 40s and have no back pain that you may have a disc bulge. You guessed it. If you’re over 40 and don’t have back pain, flip a coin. You could have a bulging disc.
HAPPENINGS OF Bulging Discs and Herniated Discs
They are an inevitable part of aging. These are called “wrinkles in the inner”. If your MRI has shown a bulging disc or herniated disc in your back, this could be the reason you are experiencing back pain. It is possible to treat your problem and make your back stronger. This is the time to put your focus on what YOU CAN do. Improve strength, resilience, tissue capacity.
Herniated and Bulging discs Can UN-HAPPEN
Similar to bulging and herniated discs that can be considered “wrinkles inside”, these wrinkles might also be reversible. You’re correct. After about a year, discs may actually stop herniating. This is a 96% rate for disc sequestration, 76% for disc extrusion and 41% respectively for disc protrusion and disc bulging. This is very encouraging news. This is yet another reason to be confident in the process. Rehab does not happen overnight.
Before you begin doing haphazard deadlifts with an injured disc, let us do our homework and ensure nothing is wrong. Cauda equina and cancer/tumor are all serious spinal conditions. These are known as red flags. These could include, but are not limited:
- Recent history of traumatic injuries
- Saddle paresthesia: Pain/numbness in the genital or inner thighs.
- Fever or unintentional weight loss that causes back pain
- Loss control of the bladder/bowel
- Numbness in BOTH of the legs or an unrelenting shooting pain.
- Loss in movement of the legs
If you are experiencing any of the red flag symptoms or signs, you should immediately seek medical attention. Good news: If you aren’t experiencing any red flag signs or symptoms, you should be able to deadlift with a herniated spine.
Pain or Numbness in One Leg
Unrelenting pain and numbness along both legs is a contraindication to deadlifts. You should seek medical treatment. What about pain or numbness on one leg? This is a common problem and is often called “sciatica.”
This can often feel like tightness in the hamstrings. It could be due to a herniated disc pressing on nerve roots. If you are in this situation, it is not something that you want to do. You want to do it. Training hip hinge variations that you are able to tolerate and that do not cause leg pain is a good idea. This could mean training with a narrower range of motion, such as rack pulls or block pulls. Additionally, you can continue to train your squats and lunges to tolerance as long as they aren’t reproducing leg tightness or pain. This article will provide a guide for training with pain. If you are working around leg pain, there are some exercises you can do to reduce it. You can also use sciatic nerve flossing drills and neo-plumbing exercises to reduce the pain.
Prone Press Up
It could be your low back that is causing the pain in one leg. You can relieve the pain by lying down on your stomach while performing a push up, keeping your hips lower. Try this for 10 reps, and then see how your leg feels. You may find this a good exercise if your leg doesn’t hurt.
You can reduce leg pain by doing 2-3 sets of 10 reps every day. It is possible to bombard your body in a way that feels great. Then, forward bending and other painful movements will slow down. If you have difficulty doing the full press up, try the modified prone pressing up onto your elbows. You can then move onto the full prone presses up with elbows locked.
Sciatic Nerve Relaxation
You can also try sciatic nerve flossing to reduce leg pain. This is how it works: Instead of pressing on the sciatic nerve and pushing through a hamstring stretch, you will move your head and leg together in order to help that nerve move a bit better.
The positions look something like this:
- Lift your leg and look up (knee extension, cervical extension).
- Look down, bending your knees and extending your neck (knee flexion or cervical flexion).
- You should make sure they are as easy as possible (ideally, without pain). Don’t get mad at your leg; the goal is to move healthy!
If this is more tolerable, you could also do it lying down on your back. You can also do the supine variation by bringing your knee toward your chest. Then, lift your leg up and down until your ankle feels light. See the video to see how I mean it.
Both can be repeated for 10 reps multiple times per day. If flossing and pressing up are not helping, or your symptoms get worsening, you should consult a professional physiotherapist.
Sciatica and Deadlifts…The Big Picture
Here are some tips for dealing with sciatica after a deadlift. This pain can be avoided by choosing a deadlift variant that doesn’t replicate it. This is something you do not want to go through. You might need to stop performing hip hinging exercises temporarily if you cannot find a hip-hiding variation that doesn’t cause leg pain. You can continue to squat, lunge, and do other exercises until you feel comfortable, as long as your legs don’t hurt.
No Leg Pain…Just a Disc Problem on MRI
If you experience back pain with no leg pain, but you don’t have any other symptoms, and your MRI showed a disc bulge/herniation, then you are in luck. You can use deadlifts in this case to heal your herniated disc. However, many rehab and medical providers still believe that it will make the situation worse.
Deadlifts aren’t too bad for your back. Deadlifts that are poorly executed or programmed can cause injury. If you are suffering from a backache only, it is important to determine the right hip hinge variant and dose to help you feel better and to stimulate strength and hypertrophy.
To do this, you must find your entry point exercise. This is the one that is closest to the deadlift variation you are comfortable with. Here are some suggestions. Congratulations if you can deadlift at an acceptable level right now! You can start with the deadlift as your entry point. If you find it difficult to lift from the floor, or you feel too nervous, then you can try RDLs.
Start with Dumbbell RDLs
Do you have back pain? No leg pain? Then dumbbell RDLs might be the right choice for you. Dumbbells are easier to lift than a barbell. You only need to lower the dumbbells as much as is comfortable. Do not forget to bring the dumbbells along your sides as you lift them. This is a great way to improve hip hinge patterns and can be done for three to four sets of 8-12. These are great for the hamstrings as well as spinal extension strength and hypertrophy.
Move to your Deadlift of Choice
If you have mastered DB RDL and you feel your back can handle it well, then you can try a deadlift variation. You might need to limit your range of motion when deadlifting or repairing herniated discs.
You can also do rack pulls and block pulls as well, which we have already discussed in this article. Alternately, you have the option of choosing from trap bar, conventional deadlift or sumo deadlift.
Sumo deadlifts or trap bar deadlifts tend to put less stress on your spine. This is because they allow you to move your center point closer to the weight.
However, conventional deadlifts may be harder on the spinal than traditional ones. If you are trying to force your spine into adaptation, then conventional may be the best option. I suggest trying all three variations to find the one that feels right for you.
The Key to Bringing It All Together
You should now be able to determine if your disc is herniated and can you still deadlift. I created a flowchart to help you get started.
- You should be looking for red flags. Red flag symptoms should be screened immediately. Don’t deadlift
- To reduce the pain/numbness you feel down one leg, try a deadlift exercise that does not cause it. You can also practice prone presses and flossing to ease it. Seek out a local physical therapist if you become stuck.
- Fear not if you don’t feel any leg pain/numbness, red flags, or other symptoms that indicate you may have a disc bulge. Locate your hip hinge “entry points” and increase the tolerance. This will help you to reduce pain and build strength!
With this in mind, here’s five tips to help prevent common back injuries from occurring while lifting.
TRAIN YOUR POSTURE
Poor form increases the risk of injury when you do any type of exercise. You should align your vertebrae properly when working on your back to avoid placing too much pressure or strain on any particular bone.
Do not try to copy the movements of others if you are just starting out in lifting. To better understand your body position, consult a trainer or research online. Even if your fitness level is higher, it’s still worth checking on your form. Regularly recalibrating and stopping bad habits from leading to injury is a good way to protect your body.
Recognize THE RISKS
You are at risk if you lift weights that require forward or backward bending, or flexion (forward bending), of your joints. These movements are often accompanied by sprains. This can be a tear of rupture of a ligament, but they can also cause more serious injuries. Extreme extension, such as spondylolysis (or cracks in the vertebrae), can result. Excessive flexion can cause a herniated disc.
These risks extend beyond exercises that target the back. The most common weightlifting-related cause of herniated discs is the deadlift, which — when done properly — doesn’t depend on back flexion or extension for power, but when done incorrectly, puts a dangerous amount of pressure on the vertebrae. Also, deadlifts can exacerbate degenerative disc disease, lumbar stenosis, or other chronic conditions that affect lower back.
KNOW WHEN YOU NEED TO STOP
You might feel the twinge after working out tomorrow. All it takes is some stretching and rest. However, if you add stress to the area, it could lead to something worse. Do not ignore the warning signs your body is giving you. You should listen to your body. A tired muscle burn is very different from a pulled back. And “no pain no gain” doesn’t work if you don’t undermine the body you want to strengthen. You should stop lifting if your back hurts.
MODIFY YOUR ROUTE
First of all, I strongly recommend that you use a weightlifting belt to support your back while working out. You can always remove the belt if you are having trouble with any particular movement. Most lifts have one or more exercises that target similar muscles and don’t cause the same pain.
Proper posture is something you can learn, but to really put it into action requires extra work. Any skilled trainer will tell you that a regular stretching program is essential for sustainable lifting. To build a strong, resilient back, talk to an orthopedic specialist. Together you can create a stretching routine to keep your back healthy for any future challenges. Stretch both before and during each lift session for maximum results.