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Lower back mobility following slipped disc

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Hi Kit,

First time poster hope I've picked the correct forum. About ten years ago I had a slipped disc in the lower right half of my lumbar spine. For various reasons I waited about 6 months to get it seen to (partly because didn't know it was a slipped disc) by which stage I was getting pins and needles in my right foot.

I went to a great chiropractor who fixed it and since starting GST it's been fine but I'm wondering if such a historical injury albeit now with no apparent symptoms could have a long term effect on the mobility of my lower back. On a good day I can get my palms flat to the floor with straight legs but my hips and lower back still maintain about a 90 degree angle, ie. the movement is coming from my hamstrings and upper spine rounding. At the time the chiropractor reckoned the pins and needles were a sign of some type of permanent nerve damage but I've since read articles which say it's merely the bulging disc pressing against the nerve. Partly because of this I'm slightly wary about lower back stretches.

Do you think disc should still cause a problem and what can I best do about it? I have both your books if there are particular stretches you think would be best suited. Many thanks!


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Ian: good to see you here. I have written extensively on this subject in the four editions of Overcome neck & back pain, but here are the key points relevant to you.

Well over half the general population turn out to have "pathology" of the sort you describe, if/when they have an MRI for the lumbar spine (same figures for thoraces and cervical spine too, as it turns out).

Discs cannot 'slip' as the popular expression suggests; there are bulging and/or extruded disc (the latter when the nucleus of the disc has squeezed out from the centre; this is the most common cause of referred pain (hip or leg) as the material may be pressing on a segmental nerve. This pressure can cause "neurological deficits" (the technical term) like the pins and needles you describe.

You are fortunate that you did not have this operated on: complications from surgery can be as bad, or worse, than the original injury. And (this is not well known, but is accurate) disc material does resorb over time (six months) and the key causal factor is this process is movement—what you've been doing.

The first three exercises in ONBP will help, and understand that lower back tightness is common even in people who have zero back problems. Holding the bottom position of a full squat is one of the best exercises you can do, too, as this explicitly and gently stretches the entire lower back region, including the critical fascia. Squat with feet roughly parallel and flat on the floor; hold a support like a pipe or table leg if you are not flexible enough to do this in free space. Hold for time. Last point is that you are doing all the right things.

Our medical system is too inclined to give advice like "don't do X" or describe your experiences as "permanent nerve damage". If the pins and needles are just a memory, loosening and strengthening your lower back (and the whole spine) is exactly the best way to go. You mention that you are "slightly wary" of lower back stretches—this is why those first two from ONBP are perfect, because the body's weight is supported by the arms at all times, so you choose what force is needed. Wary is good: it will make you pay attention! cheers,kl

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That's great Kit thank you for the swift reply know you're a busy man. I read in one of Pavel Tsatsouline's books that he disaproves of remaining in lower back stretches for periods of time as the lower back muscles eventually tire out and "switch off" and the strain gets taken up solely by the back ligaments which are then at risk of being stretched instead. Do you feel this is something that is necessary to watch out for or is it not an issue? I know you advocate not using the muscles you've just stretched to come out of a stretch to prevent injury.

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