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Strength Training Effects on Lower Back Pain

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:22 AM in Exercise and Rehab
I was wondering if anyone had any advice regarding strength training for someone with a lower back condition. Mine is not serious but I do have chronic mild to moderate pain that usually gets worse with activity. My main issue is DDD with disc narrowing between L4-L5 and slight dextroscoliosis.

I'm 22 and going into a career where physical fitness is extremely important. Therefore, I've been doing a lot of weight training. Exercises that bother me include the squat, deadlift, and back extensions (despite proper form). Should I be avoiding these completely or just taking it slow? I want to try and work through them but at the same time there is pain some days. Could I cause more damage by continuing? I have also been doing tons of core strengthening exercises. Thanks for any advice.


  • Hi There, Just had to reply to your post because I have a 24 year old son who does a lot of strength training and works out everyday. He was in excellent shape and does muscle building and exercises all the time. He hurt his back about 6 months ago and is just now feeling better. He (in my opinion was lifting too much weight and pushing himself too far.) Please be careful.. If you're body is giving you pain signals (not the sore muscle pain you get when working out), but burning pain down the buttocks and leg please back off of your workouts. He was so miserable for so long and is just now feeling better and resuming his workouts. He has a type A personality and pushes himself to extremes. Take care of yourself. Hope
  • Oh by the way the deadlifts were the ones he believes brought on his injury when he was deadlifting 400lbs. My son is also doing some myofacial pain relief techiniques that he learned about online. Something about using a foam roller to release knots in the muscle. Not really sure how this works but it is bringing him relief. Hopeg
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  • I recommend that you seek out and see a Physical Therapist who specialises in spine rehabilitation after spinal injury. He/she would be able to guide you as the what specific exercises would be best for you. If you have a current MRI, or other x-rays, reports, take those along when you see him/her.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • Thanks so much for your replies so far.

    Hope- I'm not as serious as your son, 400 lbs is quite impressive for deadlift. I'm working with about 125 right now and usually with my back arched, I'm alright. Sometimes my pain seems just a bit more than residual soreness in the back the next day but it's hard to tell and that's why I'm worried. I'm thinking about switching to an at home exercise program with resistance bands and a pull up bar, and move away from the heavy weights. I hope your son feels better; I can understand his frustration, I love being active as well.

    Bruce- I have seen two physical therapists and they were both confused about my issue. They gave me many stretching exercises and told me to focus on lunges and squats (without weight) for strengthening, but because I showed no improvement with PT, they concluded that they really didn't know how to help me, hence the reason I came onto this forum!
  • Were they 'general' physical therapists or onese that specialise in spine rehab - there can be a difference. Prior to my surgery I was going to a 'typical' physical therapy clinic who couldn't really help me. After my surgery however, I was referred to a clinic that only specialises in rehabilitations of spines after injury or surgery. They have special equipment (e.g. MEDX medical machines) to help with spine issues.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

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  • Hi BackPainMan, I know I am just being a Mom, but please be careful about your weight lifting and exercise program. Maybe your need to just give your body a chance to recover. I don't know much about it, but have suffered with chronic back pain for 13years. I was doing aerobics 6 days a week and my back starting to bother me, I thought I'd just push myself thru the pain. Needless to say I ended up with a back injury. Now back pain is a part of my daily life. Listen to your body, and if you are in pain back off of your weight lifting program. The new program you were talking about sounds like it would be less strenous on your back. Take care of yourself hon. Hope
  • I've been lifting pretty heavy weights in physical therapy but never once did my PT have me do anything that put downward pressure on the spine. If it were me I'd avoid the deadlifts and things like that. My routine consists of leg extensions, leg curls, rows(not to be mistaken for a rowing machine), lats dorsi pull downs, triceps/biceps, chest press. Then I do special exercises on an exercise ball and use an exercise band. All of these exercises are done while keeping my Transverse Abdominus muscle contracted so it supports the spine.

    So you can still lift weights and be safe but you couldn't pay me a million dollars to do a deadlift. I used to do squats when I was in my early 20's and that cause my original back problem. Now I've had training with a PT on what I can do to stay in shape safely. My PT is a spine specialist if you can find one that would be really good. Or just avoid downward pressure on the spine even with proper form didn't you say you had DDD, you don't want the disc to blow like mine did and has over and over.

    Also I was taught to keep my spine in the neutral position. Arched sounds bad to me especially during weight lifting. When you arch the back it bends the spine and puts more pressure on the discs and can cause them to blow. (ouch) :jawdrop:
  • Hi Mchell. How soon after the op were you back weight training? I used to enjoy going to the gym and doing this pre op,going three to four times a week. But i'v read elsewhere to forget it for up to 12 months after a microdiscectomy and nothing over the head when you do return as you say, too much pressure on the lower back.I meet my consultent on the 20th so i'll have to have all my questions ready.Driving me nuts that i can't ride my bike as well.
  • my British mate ;)) !It'll be 8 months next week for me after MicroD.I "graduated" from 6 wks PT last week.Had exactly the same program as Mchell.Going back to gym next week with a program designed by my PT.I am sure it could have happened earlier,but the bloody infection in the disk held me way back.
    The gym has a pool and a hot tub so,I'll be able to dip my old body in the relaxing water after a work out. :D
    As Mchell said,dead lifts and squats with weights are the worst things for a spiney.There are safer alternatives.
    3 more days and it's ON!!! =D>

  • Irish :)) thanks! It sounds like things are going well for you now,keep up the good work and long may it continue!Don't forget tonights champions league game, heading up to the pub in a minute to watch it :H
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