This past October I suffered my first back injury. Needless to say, it sucked and derailed months worth of progress on my lower body. After (mistakenly) trying to self diagnose for weeks and doing countless exercises to remedy the problem I gave in, saw the doc and got back on the right track to recovery.
The prognosis was better than I had hoped, as I flexed and rotated my L-4 and L-5 vertebrae as well as aggravated my right SI joint. You can find out more about SI joint issues here by one of the best in the biz Dean Somerset.
For therapy I did multiple different treatments including dry needling, also known as intramuscular stimulation. A well versed therapist uses acupuncture needles to target trigger points in painful areas and stimulates a reflexive contraction which then helps the muscle relax and loosen. It was an uncomfortable experience but it did the helped loosen up my lower back immensely.
In addition to PT and dry needling I increased chiropractic and ART treatment to work out additional kinks in misalignment’s. If in the Denver area I can’t recommend Dr. Scott Brown enough for his treatment at Cherry Creek Spine and Sport Clinic, the man in a miracle worker.
Now to the fun stuff. After taking 2 weeks completely off of lower body training except for injury treatment I began reintroducing various forms of squats and deadlifts into my workouts.
My workouts have been similar to this:
Warm Up: 1×10 pigeons, 1×10 groiners, Birddog 1×10/side, fire hydrants, 1×60 second side plank with leg abduction, prone cobras, and 3 way hamstring stretches. Most of these exercises can be found in this article by Dean Somerset (some serious bromance going on right now).
Activity Specific Drills:
Kettlebell Windmill 2-3×10 – I began working the windmill in to stretch and strengthen my obliques, as a weakness in my obliques likely contributed to my injury in the first place.
KB Goblet Squats 3×10- Knees to elbows every time! Keeping the KB slightly away from my chest helped activate my core much more, preventing a tuck of my lower back.
KB Swings 3×10-15- I went light on these with a 24kg kettlebell but really focused on attacking the zipper and popping my hips. Swings are the ultimate explosive hip hinge exercise. If you haven’t done swings learn to do them correctly here from Bret Contreras.
From here I let myself self-regulate the remainder of my workout. For the last few weeks I have done 2-3 lower body workouts consisting of low bar squats, wide stance low bar squats, pause squats, sumo deadlifts, romanian deadlifts, conventional deadlifts, back extensions, glute bridges/extensions, and tons of core work such as ab wheel rollouts, palloff presses, turkish get ups, and hanging leg raises.
In my major exercise forms (squat and deadlift/hip hinge) I have varied my volume and load with rep schemes such as 3×10–>5×10 –>4×8 –> 5,5,3,3 while still keeping the load relatively light. The heaviest I have gone is 225 in a front squat, well off my best of 345, and 255 in a conventional deadlift also well off my best of 500.
To this point I am feeling good and have not experienced any adverse pains, but definite soreness. The movements are fairly de-trained from a nervous system and muscular standpoint but I can feel strength and explosiveness coming back.
It will be a few weeks before I do any grinding reps but the movements are getting back slowly.
This whole process has been a great learning process but also a huge pain in the ass.
With that being said, here are some valuable lessons learned:
- Distinguish between exercise soreness and injury related soreness
- Don’t try to fix everything, go seek treatment
- Come back slowly, focusing on perfect form
- Invest deeply in you’re recovery and prehab
- Listen to your body
- take time off, weight training will not always help the process. There is no race to get back sooner than you should
- Stay on an even keel. Good days and bad days come, don’t get too amped or or too down when battling an injury
- Work active range of motion rather than tons of monotonous static stretching
The road to recovery is not yet complete and it may still be a couple months until I am full go, but I have accepted that. The important thing is I am on the right track, I have a plan, an I have developed the patience to see things through the right way.