Training with a Disc Herniation

Discussion in 'Old StrongFirst Forum (Read-Only)' started by ConnorClark, Mar 31, 2013.

  1. ConnorClark

    ConnorClark My Third Post

    I am not asking for medical advice. I am seeing a chiropractor and will be seeing an orthopedist soon.  I have a L4-5 bulging disc and a L5-S1 herniation.  Does anyone on the forum have experience training someone with a herniation? Or training themselves?  What did you avoid? Thank you.

    My first step is going to be fixing the many soft tissue troubles I have in my legs and hips.  Then work on getting plenty of ROM in my hips and ankles.
  2. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    I have a laterally herniated L4-L5.

    Because the lumbar spine's primary function, as I understand it, is to maintain stability against forces trying to move it, I have found strength exercises that do the same to be the most beneficial, e.g., the one-arm kettlebell military press requires lumbar stability; so does the barbell deadlift, so does the kettlebell windmill.  The windmill is particularly valuable because it requires mobile hips, flexible hamstrings, and a t-spine that is both mobile and strong, all while maintaining stability in the lumbar region.

  3. ConnorClark

    ConnorClark My Third Post

    Thank you.  The chiro I am seeing is ART certified and has located plenty of issues to work on in my legs from old injuries.  I think the injury was caused by scar tissue build up leading to tight hips and then me getting mobility from my low back.

    Would you say that you have recovered your lost functional ability? How did you start with your recovery?
  4. kyoei

    kyoei Double-Digit Post Count

    I have had three lumbar disc herniations (all prior to starting any kettlebell training), two of which required surgery, and one like Mr Friedes a "far lateral" herniation.

    This is a long topic, but to sum it up, I recommend the following:

    first, let it heal. Just walk for a few months. Lumbar extension is typically good. Look up Mackenzie exercises. Then find a good physical therapist who specializes in disc rehab. They will usually have you doing things like dead bugs, planks, extensions, and nerve mobilizations. Not to start a flame war, but I have not had good experiences with chiropractors, and in fact, one of my herniations was made worse by a chiropractor doing ART.

    After "graduating" the most important thing for the next good 6 months or so is avoiding loaded lumbar flexion. For me this meant re-acquaintance with the hip hinge. I did very light deadlifts  (starting with the bar on blocks) for high reps gradually increasing weight  and decreasing reps (over months--got the idea from <a title="Bill Starr back rehab" href="">h</a>ttp:// If I had known about the "Bulgarian goat belly swing" at the time, I think those would serve as well. Pushups, pullups and inverted bodyweight rows are good too. Slowly added goblet squats (avoiding any lumbar rounding).

    6-9 months if all is going very well would be good time to get on the Program Minimum.

    I have some mild persistent nerve damage in my right leg, but I just finished the ROP with the 24, am working towards the 32, and am back at Judo and BJJ 2-3 times per week (which is honestly very stupid, but I can't seem to give it up).

    side note to Mr Friedes: I have found the windmill makes the far lateral herniation irritated, as well as irritating my inner hip capsule, but I haven't really tried to work on it, and I'm probably doing it wrong.

  5. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    J Snyeg, good advice.  My orthopedist handed me my copy of "Treat Your Own Back" by Robin McKenzie - those exercises are what began my road back to where I was and beyond.  An orthopedist who is a lower back specialist would be a good next stop for the original poster.

    I cannot comment on the appropriateness of chiropractic care for a herniated disc, save to tell you what my orthopedic low back specialist told me, which was two things - he said he found chiropractors generally very helpful, was aware of research that said their care improved recovery times for some back injuries, and that he regularly recommended chiropractic care to some of his patients - and then he told me that, under no circumstances, did he want me, with my particular injury, to see a chiropractor, period.

    The windmill took me a long, long time to learn.  My own intuition was that it was going to be good for me, but every time I tried it, the first few sessions went well enough, soon to be followed by a gradual increase in pain and irritation to my herniated disc.  Whenever that happened, I put away windmill training for a few weeks or a few months, and then I'd try it again.  The key, in retrospect, was learning how to rotate in the t-spine and hips without rotating at all in the lumbar spine - I learned to do that, and I'd say I have a love/hate relationship with the windmill now.  It's not my favorite thing to do because I have to be so careful but, if my form is on target, I am able to do it with a heavy weight and the good things it does for my body have not been achievable by any other means, so I continue to practice the windmill in a variety of forms, from unweighted to holding up to a 1/2 bodyweight bell overhead.

    Best of luck to everyone here.

  6. kyoei

    kyoei Double-Digit Post Count

    Easier said than done!
    But good advice.
    Not casting out all chiropractors, just relating my experience. 0 for 3. Maybe just bad luck in referrals.
    Agree with seeing a back specialist (ortho or neurosurgeon) particularly if there is any loss of strength (check to see if you can hold the big toe up with equal strength on both sides) but get one with a reputation for being conservative with the knife. I didn't find most of this stuff out until herniation #3, which I was able to rehab conservatively.
  7. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    "Easier said than done!" - agreed.

    "But good advice." - thank you!

    ... "get one  [back specialist (ortho or neuro)] with a reputation for being conservative with the knife."  Agreed again.  My guy was great, and I'm happy to recommend him for anyone in northern NJ or willing to travel there.

  8. Pavel

    Pavel Founder and Chairman Master Certified Instructor

    Connor, follow your doctor's instructions and read Prof. McGill's "Ultimate..." book. Get it from
  9. ConnorClark

    ConnorClark My Third Post

    Thank you all for the responses.  Pavel I have both of his books, very good reading.
  10. dtreatment2016

    dtreatment2016 First Timer

    The joints can be cured! Disc herniation being treated.

    I am familiar with such symptoms.
    I got arthrosis of the both knee joints.
    The hyaline cartilage is worn out. It’s only 0.1 – 0.3 cm. thick.
    The joints are crunchy, they hurt.
    There are arthrosis treatment regimens.
    The hyaline cartilage can be regenerated!

    I can tell what will help you!

  11. B.Hetzler

    B.Hetzler Triple-Digit Post Count

    Your outcome is your responsibility, so being able to self-manage the day to day soft tissue and flexibility stuff will be good. I'd strongly recommend finding an SFMA Clinician in your area that can separate out you movement and your pain at some point though.

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