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Can I train with a herniated disc?

Short answer?


Before you go rushing to the weights room, we need to take a step back here.

Even though you can still exercise, play sport and move in general with a herniated or bulging disc, there are a few precautions and steps you need to take to stop the owie kicking your butt big time.

First of all, you need to understand your injury. Know thy enemy and all that.

So, what is a herniated disc?

Your spine is made up of small sections of bone called vertebrae. In-between each of these bones is an intervertebral disc.

These guys are there for three reasons.

Shock absorption, protection and to allow movement. Oh and to piss you off when you try to lift something cleaaarly too heavy for you.

A disc bulge or a disc herniation is when one of these fluid filled discs is injured.

It can either protrude out or rupture, usually causing a restriction on nerves and generating intense pain.

On the other hand, most adults have disc bulges and suffer no effects at all. In general, it's completely natural.

A lot of people get MRIs and just decide they are done for when it shows herniated or bulge discs.

But if you've ever herniated a disc you know the kind of pain it can trigger.

It's really not good.

When I herniated three discs, I could not move at all without intense pain.

I mean really could not move and if you are in that kind of pain at the minute.

I really sympathise with you I really do.

Because it sucks.

Like big time suck.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. It might not seem like it but there is.

You can come back from herniated discs just as strong if you take the right steps.

It's all about building back up the correct support around your spine AND convincing your brain that it is safe and doesn’t need to generate that pain action signal.

There are 4 very important steps to getting you back in action.

1. Isometric exercises.

Listen if you've had a backsplosion (going to TM that btw) you really, really need to take a step back and scrape it all down to your training foundations.

And that means learning to tense your muscles again. Relearning to brace your trunk and give support to your spine. You are re-educating your brain and confirming that you know what you’re doing and your addressing the issue and most importantly, it’s re-establishing your relationship with gravity.

Also, by building isometric strength you are giving you spine the support it needs to move safely and eventually accept load.

Proper support means less pressure on your discs.

2. Next up, find movements and exercises you can do. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

But that's not all. You need to find exercises you can do that replicate the ones you can’t.

For example, the 2nd exercise in the video is the split stance lunge. This actually replicates the muscular activation of the back squat pretty well. And it won’t leave you in tears the next day trying to get out of bed.

3. You need to start reintroducing your trunk and spine back into hinge movements.


Just hinging at the hip could be too much for your spine to take straight off, so you need to find a way to hinge but with consideration for initial weight and movement range.

Next you need to find a way to increase the weight gradually.

Enter the split leg good morning!

This is the perfect exercise to reintroduce hinge movements into your training.

The benefit of this is that you can add or lessen the weight with the size of stance and you can add weight when you’re ready.

4. Build control. You finally need to build control of the spine and the muscles that support it. If you can’t control and support your spine, you'll never fully recover from that herniated disc.

Try the all fours spinal wave in the video below to start building the control you need you keep moving well.

Heres the video covering each of the four steps:

After all, if you can’t control the car you’re driving you can’t expect it to stay on the road, can you?

When it’s laid out in front of you it makes complete sense doesn’t it?

But sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.

It might feel like a long road but once you've started you'll be glad you did.

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