Did CrossFit Cause Your Low Back Pain? Modifying Workouts, What You Should Know, And What To Do About it.Can CrossFit cause low back pain?
- Challenging the low back beyond its tolerance can cause low back pain. There are many ways that the low back is challenged during your day. Some of the most common challenges are excessive sitting, repetitive activities (bending over, stocking shelves, running), and lifting heavy objects. However, just because the back is challenged, does not mean it will automatically be painful, but challenging the back beyond its tolerance increases the chances of the low back being painful. Since CrossFit does challenge the low back (as well as the rest of the body) with high intensity exercise, you can definitely over do it during CrossFit, resulting in low back pain. Though it’s important to know that plenty of research shows that CrossFit injury rates are similar (and in some cases lower) than most other sports.
Is it okay to do CrossFit while having back pain?
- Any CrossFit workout should have scaled options, and you should be able to find a scaled option that best fits your situation with back pain while still getting the intended stimulus. Therefore, yes, you should be able to do a CrossFit workout while having back pain, though you may have to scale or modify your workouts.
- When having back pain, it is very important to listen to and respect the symptoms of your back. There are many ways to do this. If the pain is a low level pain that is very tolerable and does not worsen during the workout, most people can complete the WOD without paying for it later. If pain is worsening during the warm up or WOD, it is likely your low back is telling you that whatever you’re currently doing is too much for the low back. If the pain comes on after the workout, that makes your job of listening to the pain tougher, as you have to wait to see how the back responds before knowing if the back was ready for the WOD or not.
How do you know if back pain is the muscle or a disc?
- Back pain can be very complicated. It is commonly not just one, but a group of different types of tissues together that are contributing to the pain. It could be both the muscle and the disc that are irritated. The main situation you want to be careful of is symptoms moving from the back, down the leg and into the foot or feet. If this happens you should seek medical care quickly.
How do I know if my back pain is serious?
- It is important to distinguish the difference between ‘serious’ low back pain and ‘severe’ low back pain. Serious implies that there is a major, concerning issue occurring with the body (for example: an active tumor, an infection in the low back, major disruption of a nerve or nerves, a major fracture, issue with major organs, or anything else you need to take action on immediately). Severe describes the amount of pain and/or disability the back is experiencing.
- Some symptoms to look out for that indicate serious low back pain are:
- numbness in both legs specifically down to the feet
- numbness in the ‘saddle region’ (where you’d sit on a horse)
- fever or chills or malaise in addition to your back pain
- trouble retaining urine
- Unexplained weight loss correlating with the timeline of the back pain
- Most cases of low back pain are not serious. Though you can definitely have extremely severe pain and disability from ‘non-serious’ low back pain, like a lumbar strain.
- Note: Both severe and serious back pain should be treated medically. The difference is who you may be seeing based on the symptoms to help get you back to your goals.
How do you treat a lumbar strain?
- Treatment for a lumbar strain is very individualized, but movement is going to be key. The last thing you want to do is lay in bed all day.
- There are multiple ways to accelerate your return to function when you have a lumbar strain. Things like spinal manipulation (cracking the back) and soft tissue work (massage, dry needling) have been shown to help people return to their activities faster, though they need to be combined with specific movements in order to have longer lasting effects. A physical therapist knowledgeable in your injury and your sport should be able to help you with all of the advice mentioned above and more.
Should I stretch a strained back?
- Commonly people with low back pain say that stretching feels good. However, also commonly people with low back pain also say that their pain increases with stretching. Stretching is an easy to use tool, though you have to match the stretch and intensity to the current status of your back.
- Simply put: if a certain stretch feels good, that’s your body’s way of saying it likes the stretch and you should do it more. If a certain stretch increases your pain, that’s likely your body’s way of saying it does not like that stretch (at that time) and you should either
- Another thing to try is to decrease the intensity of the stretch or hold off on the stretch all together.
How long does a strained back take to heal?
- This can vary from person to person and depends on a lot of factors. Generally, there are some cases where you can be just fine in a few days, or it can be a longer process of 8-12 weeks or even more if you don’t do anything about it. The more specific healthy movement you do while recovering from the strain, the faster the injury will heal.
- The good news is, you don’t have to wait to be pain free to return to your activity, and the closer you work with a trained medical professional specializing in your situation, the sooner you’ll likely be back to the activity you love.
Low back pain with CrossFitters is something we work with on a daily basis. If you want to know more about how we may be able to help you please feel free to fill out the form below.