“I’m 25 and got a bulging disc from CrossFit” “Is CrossFit bad? Can I fix a bulging disc!?”
Let’s address the elephant in the room first. CrossFit is not bad. How you progress can be bad and you can have a bad coach. Whether you listen to your body or not will play the biggest part in whether you stay injury free, AND whether you choose to leave your ego at the door or not.
If a CrossFit coach does not assess you or has a chat with you about:
- How you should progress
- How long it will take approximately
- What you can expect
- To leave your ego at the door
- Pinpoint muscles to activate
- Warn about common injuries
If that coach is not keeping an eye on you and provide good cues during your first few sessions, then you have a bad coach! But, hold on, it’s not that black or white.
You have to also understand that if you’re paying for group sessions, then that’s what you get, group sessions, not personalized progressions or training plans. More on that later.
If you got a bulging disc then I hate to say it, it’s you who are at fault. No one forced you to go and do high-intensity workouts under heavy load, no one. You chose to be there. You more than likely ignored the pains and aches you felt after your training and just put up with it for a long time, because, let’s face it, a bulging disc more than likely does not happen overnight. You don’t generally just wake up and have a bulging disc from one workout.
So, never ignore pains and aches. Work on technique. Lower your weight. Lower your reps. Increase your rest. Fuck coming first. (for now anyway).
What causes a bulging disc?
There are plenty of causes, even non-sport related, but when it comes to CrossFit it’s usually the repetitive motions of flexion, extension, or twisting under too heavy load while performed incorrectly that causes the most wear and tear on the disc. Incorrectly as not activating the right muscles for protection or not being progressed properly through the path of flexibility and mobility.
What you need is progression
When you step in a crossfit box, kettlebell gym, or another type of gym for group fitness, you get several choices:
- Pay attention to the instructions and ask questions
- Pay for additional tuition
- Do your own research and study
Start at the bottom and work your way up all the while staying injury and pain-free. Take note of those times you made a mistake, figure out where you made a mistake and seek help. Regress and progress.
Can you fix a bulging disc yourself?
I’m no doctor, so I can only go by what I’ve seen, read, or worked with as a coach/trainer. My answer is yes. First, rest, regress, progress, train hard but smart. Listen to your body and nothing else. Start slow, start light, there is no need to not do what you were doing before, other than ignoring pain, you just need to focus on good technique, lighter weight, fewer reps, and more rest. Add strength training focussed on the affected area, focus on the movers and stabilizers, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, serratus posterior inferior, obliques, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, psoas, and the list goes on.
Another contributor for bulging discs could be tight muscles on one side or muscle imbalance. Spend time on yourself, stretch, focus on movement, focus on putting your range to the test.
What age can you get a herniated disc?
It has nothing to do with age, it has to with what you’ve been doing as you age, have you been doing jackall or have you been getting stronger?
The physical therapist says ‘Crossfit is the reason we are in business’. No, it’s bad form and ego. Everyone has a choice, everyone has common sense. They can choose to use it or not. OK, not every physical therapist will say this and I’m just going by a few bad apples. But this is to call those apples out.
Prevent bulging disc:
- Proper spinal alignment
- Proper technique
- Proper load
- Proper reps
- Proper rest
- Proper progression
- Maintain a healthy weight range
From my perspective and generalizing things:
- A CrossFit squat snatch should not be taught to a beginner until they’ve mastered a good deep bodyweight squat and bodyweight overhead wall squat
- Kipping should not be taught/used until a strict version of the exercise is mastered
- CrossFit boxes should have beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes (yes, as a previous gym owner myself it’s easier said than done)
- Don’t bloody bounce the weight in a deadlift… EVER (it’s called DEAD lift for a reason)
- Don’t bounce any weight for that matter—take the time and reset
- Burpees with the knees between the arms are a NO NO
Start making wise choices, start saying “no” more, scale more, and most of, don’t feel bad walking out of a WOD if you feel it’s not going right for you. Yes, you’ll get some questions and stares, but you’re better off putting up with those for one day than a bad spine for much much longer. Stay safe and look after numero uno.