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Old 05-22-2010, 01:10 PM   #1
Brian Pressman
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Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

I herniated my l4l5 back at crossfit in December and am happy to say the 5 month ordeal is finally over. Unlike most people with herniated discs, mine didn't get better on its own and I finally had surgery March 31. Before I had surgery, I tried rest, physical therapy, yoga, stretching, and 2 ESI's. Nothing helped. I was still in a lot of pain and also had a shift (it looked like I was always hunched over to one side). I know there is a lot of fear about surgery and I wasn't thrilled with the idea, but I can tell you that having it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. 1 month after surgery I was running again and also made it back to crossfit. 1.5months out I am doing full crossfit workouts with no limitations on movement. I am careful with weights and stay very light. I am slowly increasing this now. I even did dead lifts (the exercise i was doing when I hurt myself 5 months ago) last Friday.

Somethings I learned about herniated discs that I think might be helpful to future crossfiters who are unfortunate enough to have one:

-the first few weeks are hell but 90% of the time they get better on their own over 1-3 months.
-those that have surgery and those that don't usually end up at the same place over the long run (10 years out).
-for the 10% that dont get better on their own, surgery (I had a micro disektomy) is 90% effective.
-a study on NBA players with herniated discs who had surgery found that most returned to full strength (same # points per game, etc) after recovery.
-I also read about an olympic lifter who was doing even heavier weights then pre-injury 9months after surgery.
-full recovery from surgery takes 1 to 15 months. I read about one college player who returned in just 3 weeks but he seemed to be a bit unusual.
-PT after surgery helps with the recovery.

While surgery shouldn't be one's first treatment option, no need to avoid it like the plague. Once you herniate a disc, the damage is done. If anyone is grappling with a herniated disc, feel free to msg me. It truly was an agonizing experience (mostly because it means no workouts what so every for months) but happy to say i am finally better!
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Old 05-22-2010, 01:17 PM   #2
Andrew Schechterly
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Re: Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

Hey Brian,

Glad to hear you're doing well. Do you know what the problem was that caused you to become injured? I am more comfortable with prevention than I am with solution.
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Old 05-22-2010, 03:23 PM   #3
Brian Pressman
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Re: Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

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Originally Posted by Andrew Schechterly View Post
Hey Brian,

Glad to hear you're doing well. Do you know what the problem was that caused you to become injured? I am more comfortable with prevention than I am with solution.
Hey Andrew:

Prevention is key... although, sometimes discs just go. Many non-athletes herniate discs doing things as mundane as picking up a basket of laundry or twisting the wrong way. Some people just have weaker membranes than others. Herniated discs are usually a progressive as well. The disc gets weaker over time and then one day just goes bust. That said, I was clearly at higher risk:

-runs in my family (my dad, grandfather, and uncle all herniated discs).
-history of lower back pain
-had hip pain for months leading up to my injury. Granted, I thought at the time this was due to my marathon training. I now know this was sciatica.
-neglected core. Should have concentrated on more core exercises.
-less than perfect form. Lets face it, many of our crossfit wods encourage us to go balls to the wall. When we're in that last round of a workout and we're tired/racing to the finish, our form usually becomes less than perfect. My PT also pointed out how important breathing correctly during lifts is. Exhaling as you do those deadlifts is key. It takes the pressure off your discs. If your holding your breath while lifting, more pressure.
-lastly, I will list my own stupidity. I ran my 4th marathon on December 8th and was at Crossfit the next day. This was just plain dumb. I should have taken some time off. I didn't and 10 days later my disc went while doing deadlifts on a wod. It was not a heavy weight either.

Anyways, add all this up and you get a herniated disc. It cost me a lot of pain and 4 lost months. Lucky for me I did have health insurance so it wasn't a financial mess. Hope someone can prevent this injury by hearing my store.
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Old 05-22-2010, 03:47 PM   #4
Thomas Green
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Re: Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

Brian - I feel terrible that our collective advice on this board didn't fix it! But I'm very glad to hear that surgery worked. I've always been of the opinion that surgery is only innefective for people who have additional issues that complicate the matter (ie obesity, psychological problems, etc...).

Honestly, the top neurosurgeons out there are some of the smartest people in the world. The doctor I saw for this is literally a miracle worker and a life saver. For anyone else with this injury, obviously it's best to try PT and all the rest before opting for surgery. But find a neurosurgeon you can trust and you'll never regret it. So glad to hear you're back working out again
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Old 05-22-2010, 05:36 PM   #5
Kevin Shaughnessy
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Re: Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

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Originally Posted by Brian Pressman View Post
My PT also pointed out how important breathing correctly during lifts is. Exhaling as you do those deadlifts is key. It takes the pressure off your discs. If your holding your breath while lifting, more pressure.
Taking a big breath and then holding it during a lift does create more intra-abominal pressure. However, that is a good thing. More pressure means more stability, which means lower risk of injury. By your PT's logic wearing a weightlifting belt while training is going to increase your risk of a lower back injury.

Holding your breath while lifting is called the valsalva maneuver. That and a good weightlifting belt will help you deadlift and squat again without aggravating your injury.

Last edited by Kevin Shaughnessy; 05-22-2010 at 05:42 PM..
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Old 05-22-2010, 05:40 PM   #6
Kevin Shaughnessy
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Re: Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

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I've always been of the opinion that surgery is only innefective for people who have additional issues that complicate the matter (ie obesity, psychological problems, etc...).
What psychological problems could cause a surgery to be inneffective? Do you mean neurological?
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Old 05-22-2010, 07:23 PM   #7
Thomas Green
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Re: Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

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What psychological problems could cause a surgery to be inneffective? Do you mean neurological?
Nope, i meant psychological. Stress can aggravate low back problems by enormous magnitudes. This is generally agreed upon in the medical community

Also, check out the work of Dr. John Sarno. While a lot of his theories are a little far-fetched for my beliefs, I do think there's some merit to what he does
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Old 05-22-2010, 08:13 PM   #8
Brian Pressman
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Re: Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

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Originally Posted by Kevin Shaughnessy View Post
Taking a big breath and then holding it during a lift does create more intra-abominal pressure. However, that is a good thing. More pressure means more stability, which means lower risk of injury. By your PT's logic wearing a weightlifting belt while training is going to increase your risk of a lower back injury.

Holding your breath while lifting is called the valsalva maneuver. That and a good weightlifting belt will help you deadlift and squat again without aggravating your injury.
I'm pretty sure you are wrong. Holding your breath creates hypertension and how is that good? Also, internal pressure from holding your breath is not the same as external pressure from a weight belt Do a google on weight lifting and breathing and you will find a plethora of results:

http://www.military.com/military-fit...uring-exercise
http://www.bigmusclesbuilding.com/br...exercises.html
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...8/ai_85011000/
http://www.fitsugar.com/Fitness-Dont...Lifting-309906
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Old 05-22-2010, 08:14 PM   #9
Brian Pressman
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Re: Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

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Originally Posted by Thomas Green View Post
Brian - I feel terrible that our collective advice on this board didn't fix it! But I'm very glad to hear that surgery worked. I've always been of the opinion that surgery is only innefective for people who have additional issues that complicate the matter (ie obesity, psychological problems, etc...).

Honestly, the top neurosurgeons out there are some of the smartest people in the world. The doctor I saw for this is literally a miracle worker and a life saver. For anyone else with this injury, obviously it's best to try PT and all the rest before opting for surgery. But find a neurosurgeon you can trust and you'll never regret it. So glad to hear you're back working out again
No worries Thomas! Sometimes the conservative treatments just don't work. Just glad i'm back at crossfit now.
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Old 05-22-2010, 10:01 PM   #10
Kevin Shaughnessy
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Re: Did you herniate a disc? Learn from me.

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Originally Posted by Brian Pressman View Post
I'm pretty sure you are wrong. Holding your breath creates hypertension and how is that good? Also, internal pressure from holding your breath is not the same as external pressure from a weight belt Do a google on weight lifting and breathing and you will find a plethora of results:

http://www.military.com/military-fit...uring-exercise
http://www.bigmusclesbuilding.com/br...exercises.html
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...8/ai_85011000/
http://www.fitsugar.com/Fitness-Dont...Lifting-309906
A weightlifting belt works by giving something for the abs to contract against so they can contract harder and stronger, and thus support the spine. So I think they create more internal pressure. There not there physically holding the body straight by themselves if that what you mean by external pressure.

Link found on google dont do much for me honestly given the bulk of misinformed people out there.

Last edited by Kevin Shaughnessy; 05-22-2010 at 10:14 PM..
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