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Professional Athlete... Back pain ruining my life

Hi guys,

This is my first post after lurking the forums for a few days. It's a bit therapeutic in a way reading other people's experiences with back issues and knowing that I'm not alone. I really appreciate how everyone in this community is helping and wishing relief for one another.

I apologize in advance to the super long message I'm going to type out, but please please please, i just feel like the more eyeballs it's exposed to, the more chance for answers to make my life better :)

So a little background about me:
I'm 30 years old and a professional MMA fighter with a record of 8-1, and over 10 years of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling experience. I'm the #1 ranked fighter in Virginia in my weight division. I also work as a Martial Arts instructor to children/adults. As you can tell by now, it's a large part of who I am.

Now some background to my injury.

On December 8th 2016 was the first initial injury I suffered. I had started a heavy weight lifting program a few weeks prior and was consistent. The day before the injury, I was squatting pretty heavy. No big deal, although I woke up to some usual soreness. Instead of resting it, the next morning I decided to wrestle. Now even more sore as the day goes. Later that night, I decide to wrestle again. I start without a proper warm up, I go to take my partner down to the ground, and as I did I felt a sharp "tearing" sensation in my lower left side of my back. I left the gym immediately after. 

The healing process was good, things were going smooth about 6 weeks out from the injury. Now with this injury, there is pain in my lower left side when I do any kind of lifting motion. I am able to do boxing and kickboxing, but no wrestling. Wrestling is what exacerbates it. So about 7 weeks from initially hurting it, I decide to get back to wrestling. I guess I came back too early and I have a bad flare up of inflammation. I decide to take another 2 or 3 months away from wrestling.

Now, fast forward to June. I have a fight that I trained for intensely for about 7 weeks (with very minimal pain). The fight happens, I win, and my back is in good shape.

After this fight, I decided to get back to powerlifting. One day I decide to deadlift and I had bad form during the lift. I immediately felt a sharp shooting pain throughout my whole lower back.  I drop the weights and go home. I give it a few weeks to rest and come back to training, but the pain is still there (prominently in my lower left side)

I am lucky to be sponsored by a chiropractor who works on me for free. He did an X-ray and saw no skeletal/structural damage. He insists that it is just "soft tissue" damage. I spoke to a neurosurgeon who is a friend of my boss' and he also said it seems as if it's just soft tissue.
I also spoke to a certified physical therapist who says it seems like the issue is in my QL (Quadratus Lumborum). 

The chiropractor treatments don't help so much. It gives me temporary, superficial relief. My physical therapist gives me deep tissue massages which really seem to get to the core of the issue more and help a lot more.

I took about 2 months from any kind of physically enduring activities. During this time, there wasn't much progress in my back.

I tried so many different things on my own as well. Core strengthening, theracane, lacrosse ball trigger point massaging, Roman chair exercised.  As soon as I try to wrestle or lift heavy, I have a bad inflammatory flare up.

It's very strange because some days are better than others. Some days I can get away with wrestling and have no pain. But sometimes, like this past Sunday, as soon as I tried to wrestle the pain came.

This issue has been plaguing my life and fighting career for the past 1 year and 3 months. It's making me really question whether or not I can continue competing in this sport that I love and dedicate everything to.

As per my chiropractor, I have not gotten an MRI yet because he keeps stressing that it's not really required. I also don't have health insurance (pretty risky since I fight for a living lol). I've been shopping for a place for cheap MRIs without insurance.

I just don't know what to do anymore. Even if I get an MRI and they diagnose the problem. I feel as though I've tried everything needed to fix any back issue.

If you've gotten this far. Thank you so much for giving me your time :) and I hope all you guys find relief!




    google the phrase “cash mri (insert your city and state)” and see what it returns. 

    I’m pretty sure you still need a Doctor Rx for an MRI even if you pay cash.

    All this inflammation still happening 15 months later is concerning. 

    The chiropractor probably tells you an MRI is not needed because if you have a blown disc then he won’t be able to work on you any longer because you’ll be going to a neurosurgeon instead. He’s a smart cookie.

    You can’t say that you’ve tried everything to fix your back issue when you haven’t even had an MRI. That’s naive and I think even you know better. I’m not sure why you spout such nonsense.  :p

    Good luck. Keep us posted.

  • I'm 16 and train MMA as well, with bad lower right back pain which keeps coming and going. It sucks so bad. I already had pain but went to BJJ practice anyway and basically destroyed my back. I hope all goes well with you and please leave feedback 

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  • I’m agreeing with L4 L5! MRI is truly your only option in this case. Plain X-rays do not show the radiologist and the MD what they need to see. You say this is your profession which is great but the harsh reality is there will come a day when that injury might take your profession completely away. If I was to step in the ring for the very first time, you would give me advice. Take our advice since you’ve stepped into our ring. Just a little more advice, stop working out until you’ve been given a diagnosis! You might just be making this problem worse! Please keep us posted and good luck!


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

  • Combat kid congrats on your achievements in the sport but you really need to step back and listen to what these guys are saying you need a MRI and give your workouts a breakout.

  • I agree! MRI! I had a herniated disc in L5S1 and it was debilitating! Chiropractor didn't do any good, massage gave temporary relief, but nobody could tell me what was wrong, got an MRI and saw the problem, only then could I get the proper treatment! You really don't want a chiropractor popping your bones if you'e got torn tissue. I had PRP injection in September, was planning to get surgery, but then I started reading all the horror stories of people on this forum who have surgery and they think life is Good again... for the next 3 or 4 months! And then it's back (or worse) to square 1. Now back pain seems to be in my past! And I hope it stays that way. 

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  • Congratulations on the achievements. I am a 21 year old who was also athletic until my injury so in this case I may have a neck problem but I understand where you are coming from with your back. From my own experience in the gym what made sense for me was to work on my weakest points but in the case of injury (especially those pertaining to the spine) an MRI is most certainly the way to go to assess something that clearly is bothering you for such a period of time. For my injury which I sustained to my neck in the gym I kept going but what eventually happened was I realized I needed to take some time off from my regular routine and assess my problem.  I plan on returning to the gym and taking it super slow as to not destroy any progress I made (although I still have some concerns they are not nearly as bad as a year ago). The good thing about athletes is that we have charisma and endurance so if you get an MRI, use what discipline you have against your problem as it takes a saints patience to deal with it at times. Look at it like this, the sooner you get an MRI, the sooner you know what's wrong, and the sooner you can do something about it so you can live your life. Keep us posted as well because I am interested in if you get the MRI and what it shows. 

  • Thank you guys so much for the replies and advice.

    I've made an appointment with my chiropractor on Monday and I will request an RX for an MRI.

    I've also got a sponsor who will cover the cost of the MRI. I was told there are two options, a regular MRI for $500 and an MRI with contrast (?) for $700

    I know that I sound stupid saying that I've "tried everything" already even without an MRI or proper diagnosis. I guess I was just feeling hopeless.

    I'm really hoping that this MRI can give me definitive answers to the core of my problems and what I can do to combat it.

    I've been doing research into Cortisone shots. If the issue is truly only soft tissue, I am considering this route. Have any of you guys had success with cortisone shots?

    Thank u so much everybody. Hoping relief and happiness for all of you!

  • Combatkid, just some advice, stay away from the Chiropractors until you get the MRI. I can’t stress this enough! You will find out that on this site, there are not to many fans of Chiropractors. Your young, you still have a long life ahead of you. One day you’ll realize that you won’t be doing what your doing as a profession now.Hate to be blunt, but been there and done that. Massage therapy is one thing, but having someone trying to realign something he can’t see could end up catastrophic for you. Right now you need to be dealing strictly with a spinal orthopedic or neurosurgeon for the best outcome! I’ll share a short story with you, We had a 16 year old patient jumping on a trampoline who of course hit the side rail and fell on the ground. Kids being kids, he got back up on it and when he tried to do a flip ended up a quadriplegic because he had broken his neck on the first fall. He died 2 years later due to a urinary tract infection! I’ve been a Lt/FF/Paramedic for 30 years and a neck fusion ended my career. Please take our advice!.....David


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

  • P.S. Combat, read through all these threads on this site when you have time. Ask yourself, Do I want to get in their Ring and fight their battles?


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

  • MarWinMarWin OhioPosts: 705

    I think you chiropractor needs to go back and look at your xrays. Hopefully he/she did a full body xray to see if you have any alignment dysfunctions. I agree that further scans aren't all that necessary. If you have sciatica, you know it. It's a safe bet you have muscle imbalances going on that will cause your bones to shift into misalignment. If your pelvis is out, then so too could be your vertebrae. Disc compression can ensue, and then bulges which can impinge your nerve. Another possibility is that your piriformis is inflamed. 

    All too often they want you to do further strengthening, but what good does it do when your muscles are already strong enough? NOTE: Just because you have pain, does not mean you have weak muscles. Your muscles have really just lost their ability to function properly. Again....muscle imbalances. If the imbalances are your root cause, then doing strengthening exercises will only further strengthen the imbalances, hence causing more pain. 

    In my experience, the same happened with chiropractic. It only made my impingements worse. Hence causing more pain. I only read the crib notes version because I need to take off right now, but I'll try to circle back this weekend and see how things are going..

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