On Sunday March 24th, I tweaked my back. I’ve been having some issues for the last year or so, but never like this. Usually I feel it happen and can continue training in a limited capacity during the same workout session. I’ll back off weights for a few days, but within a week I’m back to normal. This time was different. It literally took minutes to get out of bed on Monday morning and walking was a struggle.
When I felt worse on Tuesday morning I made an appointment to see my chiropractor. It helped a little, but not much. After getting home and sitting to work for hours, it was not easy standing back up. When I woke up worse yet on Wednesday I was getting worried. Did I have a ticking time bomb in my low back that could be set off any second? I called my chiro and he talked me down, explaining it was a good sign I wasn’t getting any numbness or tingling up or down from the area. I was so uncomfortable sitting or standing I took the day off work and spent it laying on the living room floor watching TV. Getting up off the floor wasn’t pleasant but at least I was feeling ok when I was down there.
I went back to the chiro on Thursday and he mentioned moving around while sitting on an exercise ball may help, so I actually used one as my desk chair the rest of the day and on Friday too. Finally on Friday evening I started to feel some improvement. Waking up Saturday was still a struggle and I gave up on socks after failing to put them on for several minutes. Once I was up and moving around the house, things loosened up and I saw more improvements through the day. When I woke up on Sunday I was able to get out of bed, shower, and put clothes on mostly normal.
Now I was on to week two and I felt better each day. I saw the chiro two more times that week. I was still leaning to one side and moving gingerly until probably Wednesday. I had been able to get on the Airdyne for some exercise through those first 10 days and it was actually when I felt the best. I slowly started adding in more exercise movements like air squats, box step-ups, and lunges.
On Monday, which was the beginning of the 3rd week, I squatted some decent weight (over 70% of my max) with no pain. I saw the chiro one last time on Tuesday. On Wednesday I did a workout with quite a bit of deadlift volume. Didn’t need to restrict any movements at this point and hadn’t felt any pain in several days.
I drove an hour down to Holly, MI on Thursday to see a PT who knows CrossFit. One of my friends recommended him and I liked the idea of seeing a PT who understood the movements. I figured I’d feel more comfortable with any plan he came up with compared to going to see a PT in an office.
During my evaluation we talked through the history of my back tweaks. Then he testing some ranges of motion and watched me do some squats, twists, bends, etc in his “office.” Took me into the gym and watched me squat and deadlift moderate loads. Then he had me do some unilateral movements with a kettlebell. Finally back to deadlifts but from a deficit. We were talking through everything the whole time.
It’s not a mobility issue for me, other than some minor hamstring restrictions at end range. He gave me a bracing and stability tip to get more neutral in my setup; I have had a slight tendency to arch more than needed. He recommended movements to strengthen and stretch my hamstrings under load, showed me a psoas release technique, and gave me some unilateral work to address imbalances I have in my low back muscles.
Turns out I was on the right track with some of the things I’ve done at different times to address this problem. Unfortunately I was never sure and didn’t stick to anything long enough to make a difference. So far I’m really liking the unilateral stuff, which in general is a weakness of most CrossFit programming. We love the barbell, but it can hide a lot of imbalances. I’m excited to see how things progress over the next couple of months.