So this is a win for me. Not because the weight I lifted but because this was the first time performing a conventional deadlift in almost 2+ years without any numbness or pain. There are some key takeaways, so if my story gets a little boring scroll to the bottom for the tips.
I started having hip and back issues in my mid to late 20's. I enjoyed lifting heavy (heavy for me 😜) and back then my form could have used some work. I was also bar-tending at the time and attributed a lot of my pain and discomfort to being on my feet for hours.
Fast forward a few years to 2015, I finally got an MRI after the discomfort and pain became too much of an annoyance. The MRI revealed a bulging disc between L4 & L5. Not uncommon as research has shown, especially for someone in their mid thirties.
I was advised to back off and modify how I train. Having been in a gym most of my life the idea of not being able to lift was daunting, especially given exercise is what keeps me sane.
At that point I put down the barbell and migrated over to kettlebells. I did experience some relief not putting as much compression on my body. But, the pain and discomfort would come back under heavy stress or strain. Plus, I missed my big lifts.
So, I went in the other direction. I sought out everything I could to help me improve my form, my ability to stabilize and support my body and how to program more responsibly.
This sent me searching for solutions. I began finding these solutions working with my friend, rehab and performance genius Nikki Hind. She introduced me to DNS and I began to understand how to better manage intra-abdominal compression to support my body under heavier loads.
I signed up for StrongFirst’s lifters certification course. To help me further dial in my form. However, during my last day of training prior to the course, I dislocated a facet joint in my low back. It sounds worse than what it was, but still scary at the time as my back just gave out. Luckily I knew to drop the weight.
The injury coupled with a long flight, lack of sleep and a lot of lifting on an injured body left me wondering if I would have to bow out. And I probably would have if it wasn’t for another student, Dr Jim Kurtz DC of NW Sports Rehab in Seattle. Dr. Jim is the chiropractor for the Seattle Seahawks and has quite the story.
He basically destroyed his back, fracturing his spine in multiple places, after falling off his two story home during some DIY renovations. Despite having access to some of the best surgeons in the northwestern US, Jim rehab himself back to shape without surgery. And here he was, not long after his accident, deadlifting and back squatting right along with the rest of us!
I learned a lot at this course. It definitely improved my form. However, the solution for my back seemed to be greater intra-abdominal compression (brace for a punch to the gut) to support my back. Which definitely helped me lift heavier, but the numbness and tension were still present.
I then dug into PRI, which stands for the Postural Restoration Institute. PRI is an organization that provides post graduate education for physical therapist, rehab and strength & conditioning specialist.
I'm not going to do it justice with this explanation, but here is my feeble attempt.
They basically theorize that a lot of our chronic physical issues (nagging pains in backs, hips and shoulder) stem from the body's asymmetry (way more so on the inside than on the outside) coupled with our current, highly stressed and often sedentary lifestyle. This stress and the odd postures we adopt to remain stationary has an effect on our breathing; spinal, rib and hip position and therefore the tone and function of certain muscles that attach to these axial portion of our body.
Several physical therapy friends have been suggesting it for years. By chance I was reintroduced to the institute and it's work and it has changed the way I view the body and prepare for my workouts. I attribute much of being able to perform this lift with minimal ramification after hardly any prep to PRI.
PS. This story wouldn't be complete without mentioning Kate Edwards at Hawaiian Rehab. Kate specializes in the McKenzie technique which focuses on back pain. This has also been a major contributor to my pain free deadlift and back squat.
A few key takeaways from this story:
If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort you don’t have to stop working out, far from it. The last thing you want to be is in your 70’s & 80’s, in pain from poor posture and lack of use, attempting to build muscle where there hasn’t been any. Build it now!
If you’re feeling pain seek out specialists who can help you. There are many wonderful specialist and therapist out there practicing an array of techniques. Keep exploring and asking questions until you find answers and solutions that work for you. Just remember what Bruce Lee famously stated, “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
However, you must do the work! You must do the rehab exercise you’ve been asked to do. It's ridiculous to expect change without putting in the work.
If you’re not currently lifting weights or strength training on some level, start NOW! It doesn’t matter your age. There is always something you can do to strengthen your body. I’ve worked with people ranging from 12 to 90. Aside from basic modifications to avoid painful movements the only real limiting factor is one’s willingness.
Are you willing? If so, start now!
I’m currently offering nutrition coaching but I only have four spots available. I’m also offering a discount on nutrition coaching for in-person clients on a “membership” plan and for those doing on-line personal training.
Email me if you’re interested and we'll schedule a free consultation.
Also***Be on the lookout! New DIY programs coming soon!!!***