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Old 09-19-2012, 06:55 AM   #1
Trevor Ryan
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Bulging Disc L3-4, L4-5 - Help please

Hi Everyone, really looking for some help and advice.

When I was in high school (about 12 years ago) I had a lower back injury in wrestling. Since then it has been fine, but about a year ago my right leg was going numb just a little bit from excessive running. Then about 2 months ago I started crossfit. The other week I went to yoga and it seemed to bring the injury back.

My leg has been going on and off numb now for about 3 weeks now. The numbness happens when I stand still/upright for an extended period of time. It seems to be getting better the more I rest (haven't worked out in 7 days).

Today I got an MRI back and it shows I have a bulging disc (which I believe is just a herniated disc) in the L3-4 and L4-5. The doctor said the bulge is not serious and there is no need for me to see a specialist or do anything other than monitor the situation. He said that a lot of people have slipped discs like this and don't even know. He suggested rest, strectching and time to heal it. He said physical therapy would probably help. He didn't say I can't do sports, he just said nothing too strenuous on the lower back.

One concern is that I live in China, and I don't know how good my doctor is.

What I'd like to know from other users is:

1). What type of rehab should I be doing? What are some good exercises? What are some good stretches?

2). What type of exercises should I avoid?

3). Would you recommend still doing crossfit, or just stop doing it until there is no more pain?

4). If no crossfit, how about bodyweight stuff?

5). Any good books, websites, or reading material that you can suggest for me to get more knowledgeable on lower back injuries?

Many thanks!
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Old 09-19-2012, 08:37 AM   #2
John Donovan
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Re: Bulging Disc L3-4, L4-5 - Help please

I'm currently in the same boat you are. I had an MRI last Friday with the results showing bulging, degeneration and arthritis in my lumbar spine(not sure which vertebrae). My situation is a little worse than yours but my leg doesn't go numb, it just Charlie horses every once in a while. I still Crossfit but my workouts have become more endurance/bodyweight oriented which I needed to do anyways. www.wodshop.com (wfs) is a good place to go to find WODs aimed at our situation. I've been using it for a little over a week now and like where I'm headed with it. My path is leading to the pain clinic for Cortisone injections to reduce inflammation so hopefully I can begin to repair my back. I would definitely stay away from really heavy weights at least until you finish PT. Don't discount manipulation as a treatment as well. Hopefully your back gets better soon and you can get back to Crossfitting the way you were. Good luck!
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:01 PM   #3
Aaron Wayne Campbell
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Re: Bulging Disc L3-4, L4-5 - Help please

Ditto for me guys - L4-L5 disc herniation and impingment on my left L5 root. I'm also a physician, but not Ortho so won't claim to be an expert. Trevor, you likely also have nerve root impingment and this is what is causing your leg symptoms. I would not consider surgery unless you develop WEAKNESS in your legs. Can you walk on your heels and keep your toes up evenly? Have someone push down on your toes while you are seated with your heels on the ground and lifing your toes towards the sky (plantar flexion). Your doctor should have checked you for any muscle weakness. I would consider surgery if you have weakness AND it is not getting better with physical therapy - that's what my Ortho said.

I found a PT who specialized in this - and she started me on the McKenzie protocol. You'll find a lot about this on the web. It's very simple. There are you tube videos of it. Keep your low back in lordosis as much as possible (reverse curve of the lower back with abdomen pressed forward). Get a lumbar pillow to promote this when sitting. But try to stay active and don't sit more than you have to. All of this helped get rid of the leg pain, tingling, and weakness I had. Now I'm just having back pain and butt spasms. It is a good sign if your symptoms "centralize" towards your back.

It's hard to find good info on Crossfit that's ok to do with this type of injury. My ortho and PT weren't familiar with CF. John thanks for the WOD shop comment, I'll check this out. I've been doing my own thing with body wt exercises like pull ups, push ups, ring rows, ring dips, walking lunge, air squats, light overhead press, light thrusters, box steps (not jumps). I'm not doing anything that leads me to arch my back (not that you ever should anyway). I hurt myself doing deadlifts, got tired and cheated. I'm not doing any DL's, not putting anything heavy on my back or rack (don't want to load the spine), and not running or jumping to avoid spinal compression. I am swimming. I highly recommend this for cardio. I got a swim tether product that I can strap to my waste and swim continuously in any pool.

It can take 6 months to recover so be patient. I'm 3 months in. Be careful, no exercise program is worth becoming disabled for.
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:04 PM   #4
Aaron Wayne Campbell
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Re: Bulging Disc L3-4, L4-5 - Help please

By the way also work on your core - I'm doing tabata planks, 6 inches, supermans - nothing that will cause me to arch my back like sit ups.
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Old 09-23-2012, 01:28 AM   #5
Trevor Ryan
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Re: Bulging Disc L3-4, L4-5 - Help please

So I had the meeting with the doctor and it does not seem as bad as I thought. The bulging discs are minor and according to him a lot of people have these types of bulges and don't even know they have them. For example, I have zero back pain, went because of numbness in my leg, and the numbness in my leg is not from my back, but actually from a pinched nerve in my hip.

Due to this incident it got me thinking about my workouts and my body movements in a completely different way. My mobility is terrible, and over the past few days I've realized my body movements aren't "natural" example bending at the back instead of hips.

I read a great book, "Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence" by Dr. Eric Goodman and Peter Park. It got me thinking about my daily movements in a completely different way. I'm really going to focus on strengthening my posterior chain and hip mobility. They are all about strengthening the posterior chain and mobility of it... I've been focused on that the past few days and feel great. I will start to ease back into lifting, but not relying on what I learned in high school by coaches... I'm going to start from scratch re-learning everything with proper technique, get rid of bad habits and start slow.

Thanks for the replies everyone.
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Old 09-23-2012, 09:55 AM   #6
John Donovan
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Re: Bulging Disc L3-4, L4-5 - Help please

That's definitely good news. Unfortunately for me, I do have back pain and it can be pretty bad at times and especially most recently. Hopefully for you a little PT and some changes to your mobility(which I need to do also) and you'll be back at it.
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Old 09-24-2012, 03:01 AM   #7
Michael Keller
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Re: Bulging Disc L3-4, L4-5 - Help please

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Wayne Campbell View Post
Ditto for me guys - L4-L5 disc herniation and impingment on my left L5 root. I'm also a physician, but not Ortho so won't claim to be an expert. Trevor, you likely also have nerve root impingment and this is what is causing your leg symptoms. I would not consider surgery unless you develop WEAKNESS in your legs. Can you walk on your heels and keep your toes up evenly? Have someone push down on your toes while you are seated with your heels on the ground and lifing your toes towards the sky (plantar flexion). Your doctor should have checked you for any muscle weakness. I would consider surgery if you have weakness AND it is not getting better with physical therapy - that's what my Ortho said.

I found a PT who specialized in this - and she started me on the McKenzie protocol. You'll find a lot about this on the web. It's very simple. There are you tube videos of it. Keep your low back in lordosis as much as possible (reverse curve of the lower back with abdomen pressed forward). Get a lumbar pillow to promote this when sitting. But try to stay active and don't sit more than you have to. All of this helped get rid of the leg pain, tingling, and weakness I had. Now I'm just having back pain and butt spasms. It is a good sign if your symptoms "centralize" towards your back.

It's hard to find good info on Crossfit that's ok to do with this type of injury. My ortho and PT weren't familiar with CF. John thanks for the WOD shop comment, I'll check this out. I've been doing my own thing with body wt exercises like pull ups, push ups, ring rows, ring dips, walking lunge, air squats, light overhead press, light thrusters, box steps (not jumps). I'm not doing anything that leads me to arch my back (not that you ever should anyway). I hurt myself doing deadlifts, got tired and cheated. I'm not doing any DL's, not putting anything heavy on my back or rack (don't want to load the spine), and not running or jumping to avoid spinal compression. I am swimming. I highly recommend this for cardio. I got a swim tether product that I can strap to my waste and swim continuously in any pool.

It can take 6 months to recover so be patient. I'm 3 months in. Be careful, no exercise program is worth becoming disabled for.
^^This.

I have bulging/herniated/degenerated discs at L4-L5-S1, and have been dealing with them for over 10 years. I refuse to do surgery, and just deal with the inevitable flare-ups that occur once or twice per year, and generally last 6 weeks or so. I get over the hump with epidural spinal injections, which allows me to return to normal function after a few weeks.

I will always have certain exercises I can and can't do, and this is often variable from person to person. Dips,pull-ups, bench press, shoulder/kettlebell presses, squats/deadlifts with kettlebells (not free weights), push-ups, and targeted stretching works well for me. YMMV.
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Old 12-23-2012, 10:29 PM   #8
Stephanie Arseneault
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Re: Bulging Disc L3-4, L4-5 - Help please

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Originally Posted by Michael Keller View Post
^^This.

I have bulging/herniated/degenerated discs at L4-L5-S1, and have been dealing with them for over 10 years. I refuse to do surgery, and just deal with the inevitable flare-ups that occur once or twice per year, and generally last 6 weeks or so. I get over the hump with epidural spinal injections, which allows me to return to normal function after a few weeks.

I will always have certain exercises I can and can't do, and this is often variable from person to person. Dips,pull-ups, bench press, shoulder/kettlebell presses, squats/deadlifts with kettlebells (not free weights), push-ups, and targeted stretching works well for me. YMMV.
Michael,
When you get the shots, is your pain local (back only) or also down your butt/legs? My understanding after talking to my sports doctor and PT is that they usually only do shots if the pain is specific (which would lead to leg or butt pain or pain mostly on one side)...is this your case? My pain is what you would call non-specific (all over the lower back, mostly central at l4-l5 and s5-s1) and for this reason they are not sure the shots are a good option...I'm interested in hearing about your experience?
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