PDA

View Full Version : Spina Bifida Occulta and Training


Jarod Barker
07-30-2008, 01:02 PM
I debated putting this into the weightlifting and spinal cord issues thread, but I'm more of a weightlifting crossfitter than a weightlifter.

I was recently informed that I had a condition known as spina bifida occulta, and my S1 vertebrae has some congential anomalies. So, besides my vertebrae not being closed, I also have a facet joint on S1 that is not properly lined up, so that it doesn't meet with the facets of the vertebrae above or below it. My doctor told me that this is a relatively common anomaly, and that the majority of people go through life without ever having any problems resulting from it. I tried to get some good information on it online, but most of what I found is either extreme cases or it says that it's harmless. This information is all meaningless to me though, because most people clearly doesn't mean weightlifters and athletes.

I am obviously not the majority of people.... I don't know if these "anomalies" are to blame for it, but I have had recurring lower back injuries and chronic pain. It seems I have the most problems with deadlifting and cleans, but occassionally push presses and jerks irritate it as well. I would say I have injured my low back just about every summer, and sometimes as close as six weeks from recovering from the last time. It has consistently been my sacrum and the disc above it. At Three Rivers Crossfit where I train, we are pretty close to the Black Box design where we alternate between Crossfit WODs and weightlifting. Additionally, I am training to prepare myself for boot camp and subsequent training thereafter, so I occassionally ruck march, typically once or twice a month.

Is there anyone else with spina bifida occulta? How has it affected your training? I realize that most people don't even know they have it, but I would assume that lifting heavy weights overhead would expose any spinal anomalies. My doctor told me to do more ab work to take the strain off of my back, but I'm not entirely convinced that that would prevent the recurrent injuries. I'd really like to avoid surgical options, but I can't afford to keep taking breaks from training, and I certainly can't afford to sustain injuries during boot camp. I am quite confused as to what I should do differently, so if anyone could help me out I'd really appreciate it.

sarena kopciel
07-30-2008, 01:13 PM
Time to check out a structural therapist
www.posturology.com
And why can't you take time off from training? If you don't listen to your body signals any better, you will be FORCED to!! Trust me I haven't listened to my shoulders for so long and now I am not able to snatch or jerk and I am an Olifter and had to withdraw from a meet!!

Jarod Barker
07-30-2008, 04:31 PM
Thanks for the link Sarena, definitely something to look into. I actually am taking time off right now. I usually end up taking at least a week off when I do this, but I really can't afford to keep taking time off because I have a hard time keeping my scores up. So I end up taking the time off to heal, but I wish I could find a way to not get hurt in the first place.

Garrett Smith
07-31-2008, 08:06 AM
If you are constantly getting injuries and pain, then your choices/approach to training is not working for you--and long term you will likely suffer (I'd guess degenerative OA and back surgery would be the final consequence of not changing some things now).

I'd suggest breaking your exercises down completely, maybe doing one a week, and seeing if they aggravate your back. If they do, and you were using moderate weights with good form, then you may simply need to ditch them. If they don't hurt, then keep them.

Structural issues can be difficult. If a car was missing a tire, we wouldn't expect it to drive correctly. If a racing car was missing a simple nut/bolt somewhere and is driven at race conditions, seriously bad things could happen. Cars can have parts put back into them. Your spine can't (unless we're talking surgery, of which around 50% of back surgeries end up with no pain improvement or actually worse off).

There are plenty of things that you might do that would make your posterior chain strong and possibly not hurt your back. You should do your best to look into them. OL is probably not one of them.

Suggestions to try would include: GHD, reverse hypers, stiff-legged deadlifts, any/all of McGill's stuff, isometric core work, and make sure that your hamstrings and hip flexors are flexible. Learn good joint mobility practices and always use them first to wake up the nervous system.

Gant Grimes
07-31-2008, 02:03 PM
Is there anyone else with spina bifida occulta? How has it affected your training? I realize that most people don't even know they have it, but I would assume that lifting heavy weights overhead would expose any spinal anomalies. My doctor told me to do more ab work to take the strain off of my back, but I'm not entirely convinced that that would prevent the recurrent injuries. I'd really like to avoid surgical options, but I can't afford to keep taking breaks from training, and I certainly can't afford to sustain injuries during boot camp. I am quite confused as to what I should do differently, so if anyone could help me out I'd really appreciate it.

Another sbo here. One of my vertebra is in three pieces. Very nice.

I had back problems throughout junior high and high school. Despite being able to lift heavy things and run over people, I could be sidelined with something simple. I currently have issues with my SI joint, which doesn't help things. I focus a lot on trunk strength, and that minimizes injury. I'd do a lot better if I actually stretched.

I imagine everyone is different, but I've managed ok. I squat, deadlift, and hold heavy things over my head (110kg on jerk). Most days are good. But if something doesn't feel right in warmup, I abort the mission and change direction. Better to get sorted out and try another day.

Garrett Smith
07-31-2008, 02:05 PM
Doing the power versions of the OLs instead of the full versions may be another completely viable option for you.

Andrew Wilson
08-01-2008, 07:55 PM
I debated putting this into the weightlifting and spinal cord issues thread, but I'm more of a weightlifting crossfitter than a weightlifter.

I was recently informed that I had a condition known as spina bifida occulta, and my S1 vertebrae has some congential anomalies. So, besides my vertebrae not being closed, I also have a facet joint on S1 that is not properly lined up, so that it doesn't meet with the facets of the vertebrae above or below it. My doctor told me that this is a relatively common anomaly, and that the majority of people go through life without ever having any problems resulting from it. I tried to get some good information on it online, but most of what I found is either extreme cases or it says that it's harmless. This information is all meaningless to me though, because most people clearly doesn't mean weightlifters and athletes.

I am obviously not the majority of people.... I don't know if these "anomalies" are to blame for it, but I have had recurring lower back injuries and chronic pain. It seems I have the most problems with deadlifting and cleans, but occassionally push presses and jerks irritate it as well. I would say I have injured my low back just about every summer, and sometimes as close as six weeks from recovering from the last time. It has consistently been my sacrum and the disc above it. At Three Rivers Crossfit where I train, we are pretty close to the Black Box design where we alternate between Crossfit WODs and weightlifting. Additionally, I am training to prepare myself for boot camp and subsequent training thereafter, so I occassionally ruck march, typically once or twice a month.

Is there anyone else with spina bifida occulta? How has it affected your training? I realize that most people don't even know they have it, but I would assume that lifting heavy weights overhead would expose any spinal anomalies. My doctor told me to do more ab work to take the strain off of my back, but I'm not entirely convinced that that would prevent the recurrent injuries. I'd really like to avoid surgical options, but I can't afford to keep taking breaks from training, and I certainly can't afford to sustain injuries during boot camp. I am quite confused as to what I should do differently, so if anyone could help me out I'd really appreciate it.

Chad,
I have the exact same, and have had the exact same issue. I was perfect till one day it severely started taking a tole, namely during a similar program. I thought it was the shoulder presses, deadlifts, cleans etc. Came to the point that I thought I had a herniated disc, that's how extreme the pain and how dysfunctional movement was. It lasted for more than 4 months. I went to a docter, had an x-ray, discovered it was spina bifida occulta. I had been doing major major amounts of sit-ups for two years & completely stopped during the back injury. But that wasn't the issue, turned out it was from doing weighted pull ups, which I'd wrap a strap connected to plates around my waist- completely over stretched the muscles which is how my L1 poped out. I was doing that program for 4 weeks consistant and progressively on and off after that.
I'm 100% now, after stopping that program, completely-no problems at all- perfect. It healed a month after, found a good aid was wearing a V-max weightvest, trained those muscles up, and ended up adding 50lbs do my deadlift PR. Went back to CrossFit, and today set a new Fran PR

Mike ODonnell
08-01-2008, 08:40 PM
turned out it was from doing weighted pull ups, which I'd wrap a strap connected to plates around my waist- completely over stretched the muscles which is how my L1 popped out.

very interesting and important observation...thanks for sharing.

Jarod Barker
08-03-2008, 04:23 PM
Wow, thank you to everyone for the responses. Much better information than I've been able to find elsewhere.

I will definitely start evaluating my exercises more carefully as Garrett suggested. From looking through my training log, it seems that I have a pattern of injury following workouts that include the sumo deadlift high pull. I only found one occassion where I was performing the traditional deadlift, and one time when I was snatching.

Gant and Andrew, have you ever tried any chiropractic or physical therapy for your back problems? If so, did it improve your condition?

Ironically Andrew's experience with the weighted pullups is actually similar to my most recent injury. I started having some pain, tightness, and popping about a week earlier following fight gone bad. As a way to avoid overtaxing my back, I did a workout with weighted pullups and a couple days later my back went out big time. I rotated my sacrum 13mm and ended up spending that night and the following day laying flat on my back. I never made the connection until I read your experience. Thank you very much for the insight.

Thanks again for the help, I really appreciate it.

Garrett Smith
08-03-2008, 07:59 PM
Good job on the observations so far!

Andrew Wilson
08-04-2008, 12:15 PM
Wow, thank you to everyone for the responses.

Gant and Andrew, have you ever tried any chiropractic or physical therapy for your back problems? If so, did it improve your condition?


For me it was so bad that it was almost impossible to run some days. Any bending, or sitting also. Didn't need any therapy but I did just mainly try to lay on my back as much as possible. After seeing the doctor & wearing the weight vest, it healed very quickly

Jarod Barker
08-05-2008, 12:45 PM
Right now I'm going to a chiro, and he's done a good bit of electro stim and triggerpoint which seems to be helping alot.

What exercises did you use the weight vest for? We have a couple at the gym, I hesitate to run with one just because I don't run pose very well yet.

Gant Grimes
08-05-2008, 01:23 PM
Interesting point about the weighted pullups. When I do them, I use around 100#. It's never bothered me though; the traction actually feels a little nice.

I go to a chiro once a month, but it's more for the SI joint stuff. Since this came up, I'm going to look into it a bit and see if there's a connection.

I'm sure that football, rugby, and judo have taken their toll, as well. I've known about mine for almost 20 years--when I first tore some back muscles in junior high--and, like I said, some days it just doesn't work no matter how much stretching I do. Yesterday was one of those days. Light snatches, nice metcon, and I was FUBAR by judo. Some days are better than others. However, I'm convinced that heavy heavy squatting, deadlifting, and trunk work have helped, rather than hurt, the situation.

Steven Low
08-05-2008, 06:30 PM
Weighted pullups have been exacerbating my back imbalance. My left side is tighter and more hypertrophied than the right; so when I strap on weight for the pullups, it puts the muscle to work to hold up the weight. Thus, it got more hypertrophied than before and started giving me some pain. Stopped doing weighted pullups for now though so I'm fine... but it's interesting how little things like these can mess with you. Gotta be careful.

Andrew Wilson
08-05-2008, 07:36 PM
What exercises did you use the weight vest for? We have a couple at the gym, I hesitate to run with one just because I don't run pose very well yet.

Swissball planks with the 25# Vmax- incredibly soothing. I also wore it around most of the day.

Gant Grimes
08-06-2008, 07:41 AM
I'll try the vest on pullups, but I don't run with one anymore. A few degrees of rotation x a weighted torso x several thousand foot strikes = potentially bad things for my back, hip, knee, and foot.

Jarod Barker
08-09-2008, 03:47 PM
Thanks for the training advice guys. I'll have to start wearing the vest now. Our head coach wore that thing for a month, it looked miserable, so I can't say I'm looking forward to it.

Have you guys ever noticed your sacrum popping/cracking/snapping? Mine has started popping really often, and most of the time it's when I'm doing normal things like standing up from a chair, getting in or out of my car, even while laying on the floor. It typically is accompanied with sharp pain that lingers for hours, so I'm rather concerned about it.

Garrett Smith
08-09-2008, 08:33 PM
Sounds like you might be getting some hypermobility at the S/I joint.

Only thing I know that can help that is prolotherapy / proliferative injection therapy / regenerative injection therapy. See www.getprolo.com if you're looking for a practitioner.

Jarod Barker
08-12-2008, 12:11 PM
Thanks Garrett, I'll look into that as well. I checked out the website and found a practioner within driving distance, so now I need to figure out cost and treatment.

As a side note, upon review of my x-rays and sending them out to some other doctors, my doctor noted that I have a possible fracture in the S1 vertebrae, so I suppose that would be a rather obvious explanation for the pain I've been experiencing. It doesn't change that I have SBO, but finding out there may be a fracture explains alot.

Thank you for all the help guys, (and girl) it's been very useful.

Garrett Smith
08-12-2008, 06:30 PM
Yeah, a fracture might pop a bit. Glad you got some x-rays.

Take caution with your training. Maybe even a break. Better a little now than a lot later.

Jarod Barker
08-12-2008, 10:30 PM
Well, luckily I stopped training a couple weeks ago. I think I fractured it on July 3, and I kept training for about two weeks before I got smart and stopped. But with this new knowledge, I'm glad I stopped before I did something really dumb and made things worse.

What sucks the most though is with the olympics on I get all fired up and inspired to go lift, and instead I have to sit on my butt wishing I was training.

Thanks again.

Jarod Barker
08-15-2008, 05:49 AM
Well, as much as I enjoy the thought of needles, my doc thought prolo would be a bad idea for me right now since I already have alot of inflammation surrounding the L5-S1 joint.

Is there anything else I could do to reduce the hypermobility of that joint?

Garrett Smith
08-15-2008, 01:02 PM
I'd suggest you do everything possible to get the inflammation down so that you can do prolo.

Contrast hydro can help. Low-intensity laser can help. Systemic enzymes. No nightshades. Other anti-inflammatory supplements and foods.

Jarod Barker
08-16-2008, 08:12 AM
Looks like I have some reading up to do, and I'll up the fish oil some more. This is quickly becoming the most annoying injury I've ever had. Hopefully I can get prolo soon and get this fixed.

Thanks again for your help Garrett.

Andrew Wilson
08-22-2008, 01:51 PM
Popping- yeah happens all the time. Isn't really significant now though.

Cold showers & baths worked really really good. Anything hot always caused more pain