lower back (lumbar) soreness and stiffness won't go away - enlighten me brothers!

Discussion in 'Strength & Conditioning Discussion' started by Mumrik, Jun 7, 2008.

  1. Mumrik

    Mumrik Silver Belt

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    About myself:
    Around 6'3" and 207lbs.. 25 years old and have been lifting "real" weights for around a year and a half at this point. Bill Star's 5x5 all the way.
    I've never had back problems in my life. Always great flexibility, never a stiff neck, rarely any kind a injury (and any I had were muscle related and healed quickly), and never anything major.

    The last months, or perhaps up to half a year or so, I've been getting stiff and sore in the lumbar region of my back. I've generally put it down to DOMS as a result of all the back work in my 5x5 routine, and if I remember correctly it used to disappear after a few days of rest.

    The last 3-4 weeks I've only lifted a few times as I have been hit by a few injuries (bit of a sprained knee, now very sprained ankle) and I've noticed that the stifness and soreness in my lower back isn't fading at all even though it's been more than 2 weeks since I've squatted anything heavy or deadlifted. This worries me quite a bit.

    My form has probably been suffering too much on the deadlift as I'm aware that I've had trouble keeping my lower back straight on the heavier lifts. This led to rounding of the back and a bit of a stretch in the region that is causing me problems now. The funny thing though is that I've always felt that squats were what most of all made me feel stiff and sore the day after, and while my squat is no where near perfect, I'm pretty sure my back is good and arched during the movement. Maybe it should be mentioned that this part of my back really is the only thing that has regularly been subject to any kind of discomfort after training. The rest of my body seems to heal very quickly and deals well with the workload.


    [​IMG]

    The problem is isolated to the lumbar region of my back and feels a bit like the sort of discomfort you might feel in a muscle group if you hit the weights far too hard after a longer break from lifting. I can move it, but it does feel stiffer and less mobile than I'm used to, and there is constantly a soreness there when I move that feels like I'm stretching muscles that have been misused. I guess it is obvious that I still think this feels like some sort of DOMS, but the more or less permanent nature of it seems to exclude that answer and tells me it might not be muscle pain(?)

    I'm sometimes tempted to ask somebody to just stand on my lower back while I'm lying on my stomach, as it somehow feels like that would help...
    It seems like I obviously need more strength in my lower back as it feels like it's a bottleneck in my lifting and thus prone to injury. I've been thinking about goodmornings, planks and high rep squats, but don't know if I'd just be making everything worse.


    I'm sure I'm suffering from a typical noobish condition here, so please tell me I haven't messed up something in my back that will take a long time to fix.
     
  2. the_harbinger

    the_harbinger Orange Belt

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    Have you tried contrast showers post-workout?
     
  3. squat is a damn difficult lift to learn for a beginner, and without knowing anything else about you, i'd say that you're probably not doing it correctly

    videotape your form and have a look at it. does your pelvis tilt back slightly at the very bottom of the lift? it looks kinda like your ass is getting bigger and rounder and then back to normal...
    if so, then
    1. you're going too heavy for your back muscles and they can't support the pelvis (which is like an extension of your backbone)
    2. you're not flexible enough to go that low, or you aren't built for going that low (are you long limbed and have a short torso? - then your squat might be limited by the ligaments around the hip joint and not muscle tension)

    bottom line - keep the reps low (high reps - most likely worse form), go lighter, read squat articles, and definitely try front squats for a while (this lift keeps you more vertical at the same squat depth)
     
  4. Cap'n

    Cap'n <img src="http://img248.imageshack.us/img248/1955/

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    If you can get your hands on a foam roller, you'll think I was a saint for suggesting it.
     
  5. fat_wilhelm

    fat_wilhelm Black Belt

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    Is it worse in the morning? Does it hurt when you sneeze or cough? If it's sore after a semi-rest period of 3-4 weeks, then it's probably not muscular.

    Do you foam roll? If not, start there. Use a lacrosse ball to get the very tight spots. If that doesn't help, I've had very good luck with ART (Active Release Technique). Based on what you said, I suspect that this is soft tissue related (ligaments or bulging disc), but it shouldn't be cause for a freak-out at this point.
     
  6. Jaxx

    Jaxx Green Belt

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    Go to the doctor.
     
  7. fat_wilhelm

    fat_wilhelm Black Belt

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    Doctors suck at diagnosing lifting ailments.
     
  8. Forcetti

    Forcetti Orange Belt

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    I've heard a few people recommending against using a foam roller for the lower back. Thoughts?
    I've started to use two taped up tennis balls, same deal as the lacrosse ball I think, works great.
     
  9. Forcetti

    Forcetti Orange Belt

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    So true, my doctor failed to diagnose my bulging discs, good thing I didn't listen to his advice (which was to just quit lifting) and asked him to give me a referral for a scan. The look on his face when he read the results was golden.
     
  10. ThinkGreen

    ThinkGreen Der √úbermensch

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  11. enright3060

    enright3060 Brown Belt

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    It may also be trigger points.

    In addition to using a foam roller, try a deep tissue massage.
     
  12. stylesbjj**

    stylesbjj** Banned Banned

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    I used to have the exact same problem, my lower back tensness use to annoy the hell outta me.

    To this:
    -Go to stronglifts.com and figure out how to activate and utilize your glues in all the lifts instead of using your lower back.
    -Do heavy hip extensions and do not use the lower back at all, squeeze your glues and thrust your hips to straighten out.
    -Foam roller and tennis ball. Foam rollers cost 30$ around here, so I used this:
    [​IMG]
    costs 15-20 bucks, and you get a free mini keg of beer
     
  13. Keith Wassung

    Keith Wassung <img src="http://img210.imageshack.us/img210/4586/

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    I worked in the spinal rehab field for about 15 years and have a couple of thoughts about this topic.

    Tommy Kono (past OL lifter and former Mr. Universe) reccomends the "loosening deadlift" as a means of preventing and resolving low back issues. He states that often a person will improve the "strength" of the lower back, but in doing so, the muscles become "tight" and they lose their spring and flexibility, which makes them more suseptible to injury.

    Start the loosening deadlift with a very light bar in the deadlift lockout position. Put a couple of small plates on the bar-65-85lbs is a good start. First lower your chin to your chest, and then roll your spine down one vertebra at a time. Keep your legs straight. Go slow and smooth. Breathe out as you lower the bar, something you would never do with the classic deadlift. Reverse the movement once you have comfortably bottomed out. Straighten out your lower back, your mid back, and finally your upper back.

    Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps. This can be used as both a warm-up and as a cool-down movement.

    Decompress the spine on a daily routine basis and especially after training. Find a bar (no-not THAT kind of bar) but simply a chinning bar or even the top of a study door and put your hands on the bar/door and stretch your back downward--just relax and hang-your feet do not necessarily have to leave the ground to get the proper stretch--do for 45-60 seconds.

    The best lower back rehab exercise that I have ever seen is the reverse hyperextension. Do a google search as there are plenty of videos and that sort of thing. Its pretty easy to rig up something that can somewhat duplicate the reverse hyperextension machine--you can lay across a sturdy bench and I have used swiss balls to add extra height to it as well, This works because you are "milking" the IVD, and are also getting a range of motion into the lumbar spine and SI area. Keep the reps somewhat slow and controlled and as with always--halt if this aggravates or exacerbates pain.

    Hope that helps

    Keith
     
  14. Mumrik

    Mumrik Silver Belt

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    Thanks for all the responses.

    Remember first of all that my complaint here is not about being sore after training. It is about feeling constant stifness and soreness for weeks even when not training.


    the_harbinger: Yes, I've tried contrast showers and am not sure it made any difference. I seem to have close to no feeling at all on this part of my back, so I could even do it very hot and cold.


    uzbekistanian: Without a doubt my squat technique is still lacking very much. I'm reading the new version of starting strength now to help this and if I can get my hands on a camera I will at some point do a video to check form. I guess it makes sense that while my back is straight and nice, I might still be misusing it if the hip drive isn't there. My squats have been feeling good while I did them though...
    I'm not sure about 1) - if you mean that I round a bit at the bottom, I don't believe that is the case. I am very flexible (lots of rubber guard etc.) so 2) seems unlikely at least. Guess I do need that video to see for myself though. What I feel might differ from reality.


    Cap'n (and other foamrollers): A foam roller was one of the first things I thought of myself when I noticed that it started taking my back longer and longer to recover after lifting. The problem is that the cheapest I've found here in Denmark costs something like 70USD which is absurd. That made me wait, but maybe I should just order one internationally or try to make one myself.


    fat_wilhelm: What you're saying matches exactly what I've been thinking - That it probably isn't a muscle problem at this stage, but ligaments or something disc related in the extremely light end of the scale. I've never heard of bulging discs before, so I guess I now have something new to research.
    I haven't noticed any pain when I sneeze or cough. The pain is very low on the back (area close to my buttocks) so I primarily feel it when rounding my entire back such as when stretching to pick something up off the floor (I tend to do this without bending my legs) or when moving my pelvis.


    Jaxx: I have a family full of doctors, but based on these complaints the likely answer is to rest and stop lifting heavy things. That's not very contructive advice. That said, I'll have to see my own doctor soon anyway to get my (pretty badly) sprained ankle checked, so I might bring it up.


    ThinkGreen: Thanks. I get onto that as soon as I'm done here.


    Keith Wassung: Lots of good info there. I've been thinking about spinal decompression and how to do it. If it is that simple I'll make sure to do it every time I've lifted. While hanging from the bar, do you have your feet on the floor in front of you, or behind you, or does it even matter?
    The loosening deadlift (sounds like it could be called rolling deadlift) sounds interesting and could be something I'd do as a deadlift warmup, but maybe that's not often enough.
    Reverse hyperextentions make sense too.





    This was all good info and I'm grateful, but what should I do now?

    1) Should I take a few more weeks off (would rather not) or should I ease into doing stuff like light rolling deadlifts, reverse hyperextensions, and form work?

    2) Are good mornings a good or a bad idea in this context?

    3) Should I be stretching my back (and if so both ways or just one?), or is this bad?

    4) It is obvious that I can't keep slacking on the foam roller part, so I'll have to find something to use - Baseball too hard?


    To be perfectly clear: I am easily able to do all my heavy lifting, but I've obviously been making something worse, and it seems to need fixing before it becomes serious. It's not like I'm handicapped or anything at this point.
     
  15. Mumrik

    Mumrik Silver Belt

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    About the lordosis:

    I'm not sure about this. I do sit around most of the time (lazy bastard) and I sit like hell, slouching like a madman, but I definately don't have tight hamstrings and my lower abs are quite strong (lifting plus grappling/standup/ab work at the end of training). I don't think my posture looks all that messed up when looking in the mirror either. Some of those exercises can't be a bad thing though...
     
  16. Mumrik

    Mumrik Silver Belt

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    Sorry to bump, but any opinions on any of these:

     
  17. fat_wilhelm

    fat_wilhelm Black Belt

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    1. Reverse hypers with bodyweight or light bands or 45 degree back extensions are good places to start.

    2. I'd say avoid them for now. While they're a great movement, it's also an easy one to screw up and round the lumbar.

    3. No. Never.

    4. Baseball will work. Prepare for some pain, though.
     
  18. ghostwipe

    ghostwipe Black Belt

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    +1

    I went to a doctor a few years ago because I thought I had a problem with my ACL. He dismissed my idea, and told me to do some leg extensions. Idiot....
     
  19. Mumrik

    Mumrik Silver Belt

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    Thanks Fatty...

    I'll follow your advice and start easing back into squats and deadlifts in a week or a few. Maybe starting out with sumo deadlifts to spare my lower back a bit.
     
  20. Krossinc

    Krossinc Design is el cool

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    Keith as someone who has been working hard on rehabing on my back I'm interested in your loosening deadlift. Do you have any links or visual demonstrations of it?
     

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