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Old 07-30-2008, 01:02 PM   #1
Jarod Barker
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Default Spina Bifida Occulta and Training

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.
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Old 07-30-2008, 01:09 PM
sarena kopciel
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Old 07-30-2008, 01:13 PM   #3
sarena kopciel
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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!!
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Old 07-30-2008, 04:31 PM   #4
Jarod Barker
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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.
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Old 07-31-2008, 08:06 AM   #5
Garrett Smith
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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.
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Old 07-31-2008, 02:03 PM   #6
Gant Grimes
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chad Cilli View Post
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.
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Old 07-31-2008, 02:05 PM   #7
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Doing the power versions of the OLs instead of the full versions may be another completely viable option for you.
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:55 PM   #8
Andrew Wilson
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chad Cilli View Post
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
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Old 08-01-2008, 08:40 PM   #9
Mike ODonnell
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Wilson View Post
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.
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Old 08-03-2008, 04:23 PM   #10
Jarod Barker
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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.
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