How to recover from a disc injury and back pain

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Recovery from disc injury and back pain

Disc injury is one of the most common injuries among weigh lifters. 5 years ago i started getting a serious back pain and when i went to see a doctor who told me that i have a bulging disc injury.

The doctor asked me to avoid the gym and to not lift weights anymore. Because The gym was so important to me i just couldn't accept the fact that i can't lift weights anymore so i decided to forget about the doctor's advice and to hit the gym again but..

Deep inside i was really worried after all i was going against the experts and that's why i decided to pause and learn how to take care of my back the right way so that i can really challenge the doctor's advice. (see also How to face negativity)

I spent weeks searching the web until i found out the best recovery plan i can follow to get back to the gym quickly and to stay safe. Few years have passed and i still hitting the gym, lifting heavy and i don't get any back pain.

How i recovered from disc injury

In order to recover from that injury follow the below rules religiously:

  • 1)Don't sit or stand for more than 30 minutes: After each 30 minutes of sitting stand up and walk around for one minute. Do the opposite after 30 minutes of standing. When you keep the same position your back muscles get loaded severely and thus your back pain worsens
  • 2) Driving is worse than sitting: Driving is worse than sitting since your back supporting muscles keep getting different impacts and thus become unable to fully support your back. Get out of your car each 30 minutes and walk around it for 1 minute.
  • 3) Sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs: In order for your back to recover you need to sleep correctly. The perfect sleeping position is sleeping on your right side with a pillow between your legs (see also Sleeping style and personality)
  • 4) Don't ever bend to pick an object from the ground: Most people bend their backs to pick up objects from the ground and this habit ruins their discs. The right way to pick an object, even if it was light, is to bend your knees and go down with your whole body instead of bending your back. Any bending moment put on your back even with a very light weight will worsen your back pain
  • 5) Swim at least once a week: Swimming heals all body parts because it allows blood to circulate without putting strain on any body part. I used to swim once a week
  • 6) Strengthen your core muscles: The core muscles are the muscles that support your back (which include abs and lower back muscles). There are special trainings for these muscles available on the internet for people with disc injuries. Don't do any exercise without checking first whether its good for a person with such an injury or not
  • 7) Do certain gym exercises differently: With such an injury you would want to reduce the number of exercises that put a bending force on your back (back exercise using barbell) and that put a compressive force on your spine (such a shoulder press or squats). Don't stop these exercises but just find safe alternatives to them. For example instead of lifting the barbel while your back is bent forward support your chest by doing that exercise while you are sleeping on a bench with your chest facing it. As for the shoulder press make sure your back is fully supported and wear a protective belt
  • 8) Don't over use a protective belt: The more you wear a protective belt the more your back muscles will weaken. Only wear that belt while doing certain exercises that might be dangerous for your back such as biceps curls with heavy weights.
  • 9) Never sit without back support: Never sit on a chair that doesn't provide good back support. Never study or use a computer in bed (i know that's annoying but this habit can ruin your back and neck).
  • 10)Never stop moving: Contrary to common beliefs staying in bed might worsen your condition. Just keep moving without putting much strain on your back. Walk or swim but never stop doing sports as this will result in weakening of your muscles and worsening your condition.

So what was the result of this plan?

Here is a 1 minute video that was shot few month after sticking to the previous plan. Note that both me and the other guy in the video had that same injury back then.

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