Why avoiding activity won’t ever make your pain better. Ever.
Dr. Lynn Felege, PT, DPT
“I can’t do CrossFit! That’ll destroy my back!”
We’ve all heard it. Heck, we’ve probably all felt it. You did something “stupid” like pick up a child, move a couch, or sleep in an awkward position, and now your neck or back has suddenly become a nagging issue. You’re not sure what it is, or what you did that caused it, but now you’re afraid of doing anything that could make it worse. And when you hear about this intense exercise program like CrossFit, you automatically think, “There’s no way my neck/back would hold up for that.” I’ve got news for you: it can. And it will. Period.
The human body is an amazing machine, and much more capable of incredible feats than we realize. We’ve had millions of years to evolve, and the body has hundreds of repair mechanisms hard-wired into its operating systems. The secret is: you have to use them. The body must move in order to repair. So contrary to popular belief of “RICE”-ing an injury (rest, ice, compression, elevation) the body must move in order to repair an injury in the chronic phase of healing. Unless you’ve got a fracture or ruptured tendon/ligament:
NOT MOVING IS NOT THE ANSWER.
In fact, increasing spinal range of motion and core strength has been shown to reduce back pain, both in intensity and likelihood of future recurrence, in hundreds of research articles. This is true for nearly all back injuries, including muscle strains, disc derangements (herniations) and boney changes like stenosis and osteoporosis. But who cares about what some stuffy smart people think? Make the commitment, get to a box, and see for yourself. The most unique thing that sets CrossFit apart from most exercise regimens is its scalability. If you don’t feel comfortable performing a certain movement, trust that your trainers will understand your limitation and create an alternative plan that will still address the targeted training area. Be willing to challenge your comfort levels and don’t use an injury (or fear of an injury) as a crutch to not progress your own activity levels.
“But won’t it hurt?!”
In order to optimize your enjoyment and benefit from any activity, especially something like CrossFit, you have to understand the difference between “sore”and “pain”. Soreness caused by exercise can result in any of the following descriptors: tight, bruised, swollen, stiff, achey, wobbly, jiggly, and tenderness to touch. Great news though: It all goes away…If you keep moving! Despite soreness, using active recovery through continued exercise (at varied, scaled intensities) will actually help your body heal and repair those achey muscles and stiff joints. Moving soft tissues through ranges of motion and continually promoting synovial fluid production in the joints will help you feel better, no matter how sore you get.
On the other hand, pain caused by exercise can cause any of the following descriptors: sharp, shooting, pinching, tingling/numbness, and blocked or locked joints that can’t move through a known available range of motion. These are bad, and whatever you’re doing should be stopped immediately. The good news is: CrossFit trainers are trained! And are there to keep you safe, not get you hurt! So yes, your back (and any other body region) may feel sore, but that’s a good thing. It means you activated a muscle group and have begun making it stronger. Keep moving to promote the body’s natural recovery processes, and make stretching, mobilizing, and core strengthening integral parts of your training.
CrossFit won’t work unless you do.