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Why My Back Is Whack

Sometimes A Back Strain Is MORE Than Just A Strain

Posted by Envium - June 22nd, 2015

Hello everyone! This being my first article to Muscular Strength, I thought I should give a brief explanation of what got me into lifting. My name is Brady Turner. I am a 15-year-old powerlifter who has been lifting competitively for eight months as of now. I got into lifting after recovering from losing a life-threatening amount of weight and suffering from severe depression and anxiety for most of 2013. I discovered weightlifting to be the world’s greatest antidepressant and used it to better myself both mentally and physically. I have since dedicated myself to clean eating and the sport of powerlifting.

Now that you know a bit about my past, let’s get into the topic of the article: My serious back injury that started out as a simple “strain”. I’m going to start from the beginning and briefly explain how my lower back first began to bother me, how it worsened over time, how my chiropractor was befuddled by it, how the issue was discovered, what it means, how I am going about rehabilitating myself, and how you, the reader, can benefit from this knowledge.

The Beginning

The first time I noticed any sort of back pain was in October of 2014. By January of 2015, my back was beginning to become a real issue. After suffering a small strain in the right side of my lower back, I began seeing a very skilled local chiropractor. He resolved the strain in two weeks and I was back to lifting in no time. Then, in late February, I was just beginning to warm up for a session of deadlifts. On my second set of warm ups, without warning, there were two pops in the lower left side of my back. Within minutes, I was experiencing the worst pain of my life.

I had severely strained both my lower left side of my back and my left glute. I spent four weeks rehabbing and even then things weren’t quite right. My deadlifts plateaued, my squat went down, and even my bench began to bother me.  In April, the day after a bench press day, I woke up with a weird sensation in my back. I took the next two days off, but it only got worse. By the third day, my lower back and left leg seized up to the point where getting out of bed was agony and walking was nearly impossible. Mind you, I am only 15 years old.  Kids are supposed to “bounce back” from injuries easily right?  Well, I went back to my chiropractor and after two weeks of little progress in spite of no lifting and constant therapy, he was dumbfounded. He knew where my injury was, but didn’t understand why it was reoccurring and why it was healing so slowly. So we decided to see a sports injury specialist.

Still No Solution

This is when my story begins to get better. The sports injury specialists did a full body evaluation. Flexibility, reflexes, balance, posture, form evaluation, pretty much everything! When they had finished, the leading physical therapist laughed and said,

“You are a unique one. Probably the weirdest case that I have ever seen!”

What they found was that I was extremely flexible (which I already knew), but I had developed a severe case of something known as Dysfunctional High Threshold Strategy. To explain, HTS is fast, phasic, prime mover, global mobilizer, mobilizing muscle contractions that are for high-load tasks and force production. In other words, the process your body uses to engage multiple muscles to be able to carry out activities such as strength training. Dysfunctional HTS occurs when your central nervous system, through stress, trauma, or even just bad habits, begins engaging the wrong muscles in the wrong ways at the wrong times to force itself to be able to continue to carry out high-load tasks (e.g. weightlifting).

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The Effects Of HTS

So what did the dysfunctional HTS do to me? Well, obviously it caused back pain. But it did so much more than just that. It had caused my entire posterior chain and core to become hyperactive, VERY hyperactive, to the point where many muscles weren’t even relaxing when I was asleep. This, over the course of several months, caused a significant bilateral forward pelvic rotation that, in combination with my hyperactive core, pulled my lower back into a constant hyperextended position. This put CONSTANT, painful tension on my lower back muscles and upper glutes which made it extremely easy for strains to occur. This is why I had strained my back/glutes in five different spots in four months and this is why my lifts were getting worse as well.

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But the consequences of my Dysfunctional High Threshold Strategy didn’t end there. The injury was forcing my lower back into such a tight, hyperextended position, that it could not properly go into a rounded position, and even when I stood upright, the exaggerated arch of my lower back was noticeable. Also, my motor skills were very out of line because my body had become accustomed to functioning in this dysfunctional way. This was abundantly clear in my squat. Due to my bilateral forward pelvic rotation, I was beginning to twist my hips so that I was positioned over my right leg, and I was severally hyperextending my back when coming out of the bottom of my squat, but I had little control over this. Even my ability to fully expand my lungs had been compromised to some degree by my Dysfunctional HTS. My right lung was being restricted, so my left lung had moved outward allowing it to expand more to compromise.

How To Rectify HTS

It was apparent at this point that my body is severely damaged. So, how do you go about treating something like this? It’s fairly simple. Reteach your body proper motor skills and that is exactly what I have been doing for over a month now through physical therapy. Every week I am advancing to slightly more advanced PT moves to teach my central nervous system to have a proper functioning HTS. I have also begun dry needle therapy (NOT a form of acupuncture!) as a way to speed up the process and help relax the especially stubborn, hyperactive muscles (my lower back, middle back, and calves). The best part about this situation is I get to lift and I get to lift heavy! In the first couple weeks, I couldn’t do anything that could put my back in a hyperextended position (e.g. decline sit-ups, bench press, good mornings, etc) but now I have the freedom to do anything so long as I stay to my physical therapy and listen to my body.

The miraculous part about all of this is that after just two weeks of therapy, I added 20lbs to both my squat and deadlift! I am still not 100%, but I am recovering and feeling better than I have in months!


And that brings me to what you – the reader – can take home from this article. Listen to your body. Acknowledge your pains and aches and consult an expert if they persist. NEVER ignore back pain, and more importantly, don’t just disregard your pain as being a result of “going too heavy” or “not being built for that”. Sometimes, the issue isn’t your form or the weight you’re trying to move. Sometimes the issue can be deeper. You could have a spinal or pelvic misalignment, a hyperactive group of muscles, or, if you’re like me, the very strategy your body uses to engage muscles to carry out tasks could be dysfunctional.

So stay smart and resolve issues before they become debilitating and keep you from making gains!


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Whenever my form breaks down, I take some time off to try and reverse faulty recruitment patters. This and working with a lighter load on the comeback (deload). Awesome stuff!


Love the article. Many actually have it, more or less severe. But since it is on a subcontious level most people don't even notice if some muscles are fired earlier than others, or one side behaves differently than the other etc. It also often occurs for people with Scoliosis, since the all the  postural muscles often try to balance the slight misalignment in your posture, and cause wrong muscle-usage-pattern. Loved watching and reading this. *thumbs up*

Envium  Edit  Delete  Close

Thank you! I really appreciate it! I wasn't aware that scoliosis patents often have dysfunctional HTS, but that makes total sense.


This is a really great article with alot of helpful info @envium, i hope you make a full recovery


Really interesting article, sounds exactly like the type of stuff Elliott hulse talks about 24/7 hahaha

Envium  Edit  Delete  Close

Can't say I'm familiar with Eliot Hulse... haha but thank you!

crood  Edit  Delete  Close

Eliot would be quoted with "correctional deadlift" XD


Very interesting read! I love hearing about people's experiences with injuries and how they deal with the injury. I'm glad you are feeling better! Keep at your PT and you'll be stronger than before your injury. Good luck! 

Envium  Edit  Delete  Close

Thank you! I most certainly will! Recovering from this injury has definitely changed my perspective on powerlifting and the relationship between mind and body for the better


Excellent article.  So true about listening to your body.  I wish you luck in your recovery and know the human body has amazing powers of recovery :-)

Envium  Edit  Delete  Close

Thank you! Yes, I've learned the hard way that you must take the time to listen to your body every day.


Wow these are some awesome articles, lots of information! Your entire back is whack because people do not perform a variety of exercise to maximize the back. Pull Ups, Roman Dead Lift, Seated Row ect..

Idris  Edit  Delete  Close

Yes, I do Zen and Kick Boxing and Rowing!

Envium  Edit  Delete  Close

Thank you! This is true, but something I have learned is stability exercises and several full body movements and positions like those found in yoga, tend to be best for strengthening your actual mind muscle connection to your back.


Such a great read @envium, for someone who is 15 you are very articulate and have a bright future ahead of you.  Now if we could just teach you how to properly lift... jeeez!!!! hahaha  just kidding.  Glad you are recovering bro! So proud of you!

Envium  Edit  Delete  Close

Hahahahahahaha thanks Scott! really appreciate everything you've done for me!


Some great information here @envium! Sounds like a terrible injury, and this is a really good explanation about it, so anyone who has similar issues can get it sorted sooner! Nice!

Envium  Edit  Delete  Close

Thank you! That's exactly my intention! I would hate for someone else to have to deal with the constant pain and struggles I went through before I actually discovered the issue.


very unfortunate situation @envium...

nevertheless, very interesting article!