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Old 10-14-2008, 12:38 PM   #1
Brian Lawyer
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Tweak in Upper Back or Thoracic spine area

This is a recurring injury for me. I will accept any advice on how to speed up recovery although I don't think there is anything that can really be done about recovery except avoid any pressing exercises for about two weeks. My main concern is how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

This used to happen quite a bit during incline presses but recently I was performing overhead presses and had the same injury. It happens the same way every time. I will be pressing and as I am bearing down on a hard rep I get this sudden tweak or like nerve sting right in the middle of my upper back. At the time it almost feels like no big deal. I can usually finish my workout. I even deadlifted like 275 a couple times after it happened the other day. But the instance I feel it in my upper mid back, I know from experience, that after I cool down from my workout or the next morning it is going to hurt like hell.

As expected, I always wake up the next morning with this searing pain in my middle upper back and it hurts like hell for 1 to 2 days. After that it turns into this subtle pain in my upper back for about a week. What I have noticed is that once I injure that area, I am usually more sucseptible to reinjury for about the next 2 weeks. It's as if I push something loose in my upper back and until it fully heals it is more sucseptible to being pushed out again. I have learned this the hardway because usually I feel like I am ready to work out within a couple days but if I don't give myself at least 10 days or more to heal I inevitably always reinjure myself.

Any advice.
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Old 10-23-2008, 02:21 AM   #2
David Meverden
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Re: Tweak in Upper Back or Thoracic spine area

I have no expertise beyond my own experience but nobody else is jumping in so I'll share my experiences.

I've tweaked my neck or back several times over the past few years. It's a sudden sharp feeling, and I instantly know what I've done. Later I will often not feel pain if I keep my neck/back in a very exact position (like if I don't turn my head, at all. It's funny going about your daily business where in order to look at something to your left you turn your whole body in that direction).

Times I've done this: trying to out-push a group of ~10 kids without warmup (actually tweaked my back a couple of times while working that summer camp), doing high rep light sandbag thrusters where I allowed my back and torso to go slack at the top (had largely poor breath control, and lack of focus on the back), just out of bed making a quick breakfast (that one really annoyed me), switching to awkwardly loaded 50# weighted chinups following heavy front squats without lighter weighted chin up warm up sets (that was just dumb. Like Rip says "if you don't have time to do an adequate warmup, you don't have time to lift weights")

Based on this I've noticed the following risk factors: exerting myself without a proper warmup (and I guess doing anything right after I get out of bed?), not maintain a good supported torso during exercises, doing awkward lifts, switching from one kind of heavy demand on my spine (compression) to another (tension).

Things that I've found help recovery:
1) STOP! Do NOT do any more lifting. Do not try to stretch out your neck or back, I've found this only makes it worse.
2) Apply ice immediately, if possible. This has anecdotally seemed to speed my recovery.

The last time I tweaked my neck, and so now I'm thinking of undertaking some specific neck strengthening exercises as I think this might support the spine better and help prevent this in the future.

Don't know if this is exactly the same thing as yours but maybe this will help.
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Old 11-04-2008, 11:18 AM   #3
Corey Bibolet
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Re: Tweak in Upper Back or Thoracic spine area

I too have had this similar injury reoccurring for the last 5 years. It has just happened again this past Saturday doing the Thrusters. I agree with David. Stop and do not do any additional exercises or stretching, as it only makes it worse. The first time this happened to me I went to the doctor and I was prescribed PT and pain meds. After missing 2 months of work and feeling worse (because of the meds) I went to a chiropractor that fixed the cause of the problem in 2 visits. It was a pinched nerve that was causing pain and inflammation. The pain goes up my neck and down my arm.

I am a network administrator, so I can't really work on the computer without making it worse. I will usually have to take a couple of days off work also. Not good for this to keep happening. It has been more frequent in the last year after I started CF.

My new chiropractor wants to get to the bottom of this and correct my spinal alignment once and for all so this doesn't keep happening. It is not always the same exercise that causes the problem. In the past it has been bench presses, dips, pull ups, now thrusters.

I hate missing workouts because the incredible gains I have made through Crossfit, but health comes first. I will wait until the pain is gone before I get into the gym again. For me it will take anywhere from 3-7 days and a couple of chiropractor visits before I workout again. This is day 3 of not working out and I am having a hard time staying away from CF. I have drank too much cool aide.

Now my goal is to make sure my spine is aligned correctly through regular visits to the chiropractor. It is not the lack of technique or any particular exercises that are the root cause, but years breakdancing, too many car accidents, etc making my spine shift. Then I do an exercise and it gets set off.

My advise is to see a good chiropractor that can fix you up so you won't keep injuring yourself as it will happen more often and get worse each time.

I hope this helps.
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Old 11-04-2008, 12:18 PM   #4
Scott Jones
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Re: Tweak in Upper Back or Thoracic spine area

Quote:
Originally Posted by Corey Bibolet View Post
My new chiropractor wants to get to the bottom of this and correct my spinal alignment once and for all so this doesn't keep happening. It is not always the same exercise that causes the problem. In the past it has been bench presses, dips, pull ups, now thrusters.
There's no way for me to know without getting hands-on for an assessment, but to me this sounds more like a subluxated costo-vertebral joint (rib-spine interface) than a problem with your actual spine. The symptoms here are pretty classic with regard to that.

If so, the problem is a costo-vertebral joint that is not well stabilized. Lots of manipulation will certainly not stabilize the joint, and may actually make it worse.

Just a thought. . .

Scott
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Old 11-05-2008, 10:00 PM   #5
Neil Wattier
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Re: Tweak in Upper Back or Thoracic spine area

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Lots of manipulation will certainly not stabilize the joint, and may actually make it worse.
Scott

My wife has been suffering from a similar injury and has been receiving adjustments from a chiropractor with good results. Can you tell me why manipulations might make it worse? What should she do instead?
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Old 11-06-2008, 07:10 AM   #6
Brian Lawyer
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Re: Tweak in Upper Back or Thoracic spine area

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Originally Posted by David Meverden View Post
I
Things that I've found help recovery:
1) STOP! Do NOT do any more lifting. Do not try to stretch out your neck or back, I've found this only makes it worse.
2) Apply ice immediately, if possible. This has anecdotally seemed to speed my recovery.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corey Bibolet View Post
I agree with David. Stop and do not do any additional exercises or stretching, as it only makes it worse.
You both seem to agree that I should stop immediately and no stretching. That is exactly the opposite of what I have been doing. I usually finish my workout then do some stretching afterwards. The real pain doesn't start until I wake up the next morning.

This is definitly not a result of not warming up. I am thoroughly warmed up when this occurs. I think it happens because I start to let my form go and loose the tightness in my thoracic spine.

I don't know about the chiropractor advice. I have even heard chiropractors say that the majority of injuries they see from weight lifters don't require a chiropractor. The injured party simply needs to stop lifting for a week or two. The problem is most of us "health nuts" (me included) don't want to miss a week or two of workouts. So we go to the chiropractor trying to get a short term fix (i.e. adjustment).
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