I have had many people reach out to me about rehabbing their backs and I like to believe I have made quite the difference in some people’s lives. People message me all the time about exercises and drug use to help heal backs and they don’t want to listen when I tell them to just NOT TRAIN!
After competing frequently for a few straight years without much time off, I paid the price. My neurosurgeon recommended surgery on August 19th, 2015 and eight days ago, I squatted 750 lbs (35 lbs off of my best) in the Animal Cage (I am writing this article on March 12th, 2016). My patience has paid off immensely and I am proud to say that through some intelligence on my end, I am going to return to competitive powerlifting 10 months after almost being forced into back surgery and hit PRs across the board on the platform.
But how did I get in this situation?
I was “working around” injuries constantly in training and kept competing. I was not lifting to my potential in training or in meets for a long period of time. After these competitions, I was not happy with the result and always attempted to redeem myself by jumping right back into a meet prep cycle rather than taking much-needed time off. Eventually, working through recurring back injuries caught up to me. I had to withdraw from the Boss of Bosses 2 powerlifting meet and I ended up taking some time off completely. My lower back was starting to feel better so after a month, I jumped right back into training. A few days later, I woke up and could not get out of bed. My left leg was in an excruciating amount of pain. I could not put my foot on the ground without buckling and almost falling over! I knew that this was a sign of some serious lower back issues. I went to my chiropractor and it took me about five minutes to get out of the car and walk 30 feet into his office that day! After explaining what was going on, he ordered me a MRI and was straight up with me: “I do not think there is much I can do right now”.
That same day, I went and received my MRI. I anxiously waited for the results for a couple of days. When my phone rang and it was my chiropractor, I knew I was going to get some potentially bad news. I was correct!
The final diagnosis was a herniated L4-L5, L5-S1, severe spinal stenosis, nerve compression, and a compression fracture in my sacrum. I had also developed drop foot from the nerve compression. To keep it simple, my disc had been protruding my nerve root(s) for so long that the signals were not being sent down to my left foot and I could not use it effectively!
Two days later, I had an appointment with a neurosurgeon. By this appointment, I was hoping for surgery. The pain was so terrible that I wanted them to just cut the pain out. Surgery was highly recommended, however, the surgeon claimed that after I recovered from surgery, powerlifting would not be an option. This changed my mind immediately!
I left the office and called my good friend Brian Carroll. He is good friends with Dr. Stuart McGill (look him up; to keep it short, he is the Michael Jordan of spine biomechanics). Brian forwarded Dr. McGill my MRI results and I had a skype consultation with Dr. McGill two nights later. Dr. McGill evaluated my movements and spoke to me for about 45 minutes. This was an interesting experience. He recommended against surgery and explaining that surgery would not fix my issues long term and would be a temporary solution; he also guaranteed that if I went through with back surgery, I would have subsequent back surgeries.
I am very fortunate I listened to him! Rather than surgery,
- I took four months off from ANY lifting in the gym.
- I did my best to correct movement patterns in my everyday movements.
- I did my best to avoid loading my spine.
It was pretty damn simple stuff because when it came down to it, I completely rested my back and moved better. That’s it.
This whole process has made me mentally stronger and has given me a passion for helping others.
I am looking forward to everything to come and I am only just getting started!
Jordan Wong is a raw powerlifter in both the 220 and 242 lb weight classes. He is the former world record holder of the all time raw squat in the 220 lb weight class. He is sponsored by Animal, Iron Rebel Power Gear, and Power Rack Strength. You can find him on Instagram (@wongstwong) to check out his training videos as well as client highlight videos. If you are interested in online coaching, contact him using the form below.