When in Doubt, Blame Deadlifts
I had a buddy of mine email last week telling me that his back has been bothering him lately. “Just a dull ache,” he said, “nothing too serious.” He mentioned he went to visit a local chiropractor who, after taking an MRI, discovered that he had two disc bulges. Bummer.
Almost predictably, the chiro ended up pointing his finger at the training my buddy does (he’s a recreational powerlifter, and competes in Jiu-Jitsu as well) for the bulges, and immediately recommended that he stop training for the time being. Big shocker there, huh? I mean, we wouldn’t want to address the fact that he sits in front of a computer for ten hours a day and admittedly, “tends to lean to one side.” Nope that couldn’t be the culprit at all (note sarcasm).
Of course, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that lifting heavy things and throwing people around on a mat (no homo) didn’t play a role – they absolutely could have! But, for all intents and purposes, I think it’s safe to say that this chiropractor’s train of thought is a little short-sided, at best.
Honestly, though, the fact that he took MRI which revealed two bulging discs doesn’t really say much. Looking at the statistics, 82% of Americans, if you took an MRI of their spine today, would have a disc bulge at one level. Taking it a step further, 38% would have one at two levels. Needless to say, it’s more common than we think. Consequently, the real million dollar question then becomes whether or not they’re symptomatic or not. Playing the percentages, you’re probably walking around with a disc bulge as you read this blog post, and you’re just fine.
Nevertheless, while lifting may have played a role, I think it’s safe to say that 82% of Americans DO NOT lift weights on a regular basis. As such, I think it’s a little absurd to automatically blame the deadlifts when there are plenty of people walking around with disc bulges and don’t even know it. Incidentally, I’d go so far as to say that the fact my buddy does train like a horse prevented it from getting worseI
Simply put, lifting heavy shit and moving around helps to off-set many of the postural adaptations that are the result of sitting in front of a computer all day. Take the squat for example. Here we can help maintain ample ankle dorsiflexion, hip abduction, glute activation, and t-spine extension (to name a few) that would otherwise be completely lost. Too, from a general standpoint, strength training helps to establish a base of stiffness/stability that undoubtedly helps protect the body in the long run.
In the end, I told my friend that, yes, it probably would be wise to lay off the heavy squats and deadlifts for the time being and focus more on goblet squats, tons of single leg work, tons of core stability, and really hammering away at more glute activation and improving hip mobility (especially hip internal rotation). In addition, being more cognizant of daily behavorial modifications (such as not leaning to one side all the time) would be a step in the right direction.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that his chiropractor sucks donkey balls.