This past week I was doing dead lifts as part of our WOD at the gym and after a few rounds, I could start feeling it in my back. When we finished, my back really hurt. Every time I started getting to the edge of my heavyweight for dead lifts, I felt it. It was tight, a bit sharp and felt like it wanted to just grab.
The week before at Crossfit, I was doing pull ups and started to feel it in my neck after a few rounds, especially once I started struggling to get the last few reps. Almost immediately my neck tightened up and for few days later, my neck was sore and stiff.
What do these issues sound like? Slipped disc? Herniated disc? Pulled muscle?
To us, it sounds like a stability problem. I happen to know my body well as a physical therapist but still sometimes need someone else to look at me to give me clues or tell me when to back off.
Your body can only handle so much weight with an exercise, and when you near the max, other muscles kick in to try to help you move that weight. When others kick in, a lot of times it can lead to the muscles that are working overtime to tighten up, cramp, spasm and even cause pain. Pain is really just an alarm saying, “Hey! Please take a break. We can’t withstand this over and over again!”
What we have to do when this happens is back off. Recognize that you are compensating for a weakness and unload some of the weight. Your body is so good at self-preservation that it can take care of itself. It’s going to lock the muscles down and not let you move. It’s not going to allow you to damage your neck or back.
So, here’s what you do. Don’t stop lifting. You just might need to modify or scale back and listen to your body more. Ask yourself which part of your body should be the focus of the exercise. Then you need to listen to when it signals it’s time to scale back.
It’s not exercise until failure. It’s exercise until your body signals that it’s not strong enough to stabilize. During those pull ups, my core was losing it’s ability to stabilize my torso, so my neck was trying to kick in to help lift me up.
Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy & Performance is a performance based physical therapy practice who helps active adults and athletes in Oakland & the surrounding Bay Area get back to workouts and sports they enjoy with injections, medications, or having to take time off.