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Help me Guess at Cause of Back Strain
Old 05-07-2011, 11:49 AM   #1
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Help me Guess at Cause of Back Strain

To help me prevent back strains (muscle pulls) in the future, I'm trying to figure out what caused my most recent strain.

The last two times I strained my back were in Sept 2006 (surfing wipeout) and May 2008 (poor weightlifting technique). Since May 2008 I've done twice per week upper body strength training including "supermans" and crunches.

On April 23 I did my last strength training, because I was training for a long bike ride event. On May 1, I crashed my bike, resulting in a bunch of injuries, but no noticeable back pain.

On May 4, I picked something weighing about 10 pounds (in a twisting way) and strained a muscle in my back.

I know there's no way to know for sure, but do you think that the strain occurred:

1. Because I hadn't done any upper body work for 1.5 weeks

2. Because the bike crash did some damage.

3. None of the above -- it would have happened anyway without 1 or 2.
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Old 05-07-2011, 11:56 AM   #2
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My guess is the bike accident, although maybe both contributed - - with more upper back training, maybe there would have been more protective muscle built up that would have helped when you had the bike accident.

Since both of these could have contributed, maybe the best response would be

(1) return to your strength training when you are able to do so
(2) do whatever is reasonably possible to avoid more bike accidents

Also, it could have happened anyway! You're right about that. Backs are weird and mysterious.
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Old 05-07-2011, 12:22 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
On May 4, I picked something weighing about 10 pounds (in a twisting way) and strained a muscle in my back.
I know there's no way to know for sure, but do you think that the strain occurred:
2. Because the bike crash did some damage.
I'm goin' for Occam's Razor.

After a crash like that, you're bound to have widespread muscle & tissue damage that causes muscles to be weaker and more susceptible to furhter damage. The injuries may cause you to hold yourself differently (to ease the pain) or to walk/lift differently (to ease the pain).

It all adds up to one big nasty setup for more injuries.
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Old 05-07-2011, 12:52 PM   #4
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Mental stress is the biggest contributor for me - any worries or upcoming emotionally charged events you are concerned about?
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Old 05-07-2011, 03:26 PM   #5
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I vote for 3. If none of the exercises in your routine involve twisting your back, maybe the muscles that could have prevented the sprain just aren't strong enough.
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Old 05-08-2011, 06:39 AM   #6
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I don't have a clue. But you sound a little accident prone Al
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Old 05-08-2011, 07:45 AM   #7
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When I was twelve years old I fell off a moving Jeep that my brother was driving. I hit the highway hard. The Jeep was moving about twenty MPH. Nothing was broke. I am sure thats what starting my hip and back problems later in life. I was also in a car crash. The car went off a cliff and rolled about thirty times. Yes I am lucky to tell about it. The body can only take so much. Pain later in life is often caused by what we did as youths. oldtrig
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Old 05-08-2011, 08:09 AM   #8
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I've noticed that when I pull a muscle in my back, it's almost always due to a twisting motion. For me, it doesn't seem to matter that I work out and have built up my strength; I just have to be careful not to twist my back hard, especially if I am carrying something.
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Old 05-08-2011, 08:59 AM   #9
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ksr is exactly right.

I have had recurring lower back problems and have worked with a very good physical therapist to help me resolve the last occurrence and work on preventing future ones. I have a couple of bulging discs and don't want to aggravate that any further. Both the therapist and my doctor agree the number one cause of back injuries is lifting weight and twisting.

The last time I injured my back was doing yard work. Went to Home Depot and bought 20 some odd 3 cu ft bags of mulch: loaded onto flat cart, transferred into my truck, transferred into utility cart behind riding mower, removed and applied. So that meant moving about 80 bags altogether. Most of those moves involved lifting, twisting and setting down. I was somewhere around move 70 when I leaned over to lift bag out of cart and then twisted to drop it on ground when pain shot through my lower back and I dropped to the ground. X-rays revealed the bulging discs and resulted in three weeks physical rehab.

The therapist set me up with an exercise routine to strengthen my core muscles, front and back, to take some of the load off my spine. Have had no problems since then.

Long and short of all this. Don't lift and twist. Move your feet to turn your hips and the weight.
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Old 05-08-2011, 10:27 AM   #10
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As a looong time back sufferer, one thing I have learned is to NEVER bend my back in two planes at the same time. That means I never twist while bending forward or backward; I never bend to the side while also bending forward or backward. At least, for me, this is the number one cause of back spasms. It has been very difficult for me to figure out what activities to avoid because there seems to be a 24-48 hour delay between what ultimately proved to be the precipitating event and the onset of spasms. I have concluded that the activity immediately preceding the onset of spasms has little or nothing to do with it.
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Old 05-08-2011, 10:43 AM   #11
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"Help me Guess at Cause of Back Strain"

Uh, you're just getting old?

Seriously, at a much younger age I also suffered from back problems. In my case it was due to being a bit overweight (much more than I am, today )
and the solution (as suggested by a doctor) was simply use walking as an exercise that would reduce weight, along with the action to strengthen my lower back muscles.

It worked for me. It could be that your current "exercise" (be it on a bike, or as a runner) is just causing a bit of "irritation" to an area of your back muscles and is being aggravated by the simple fact that you are aging.

Just my $.02, based upon my personal situation.
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Old 05-08-2011, 12:26 PM   #12
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Seriously, at a much younger age I also suffered from back problems.
Me, too. In my mid 50s, "throwing my back out" was happening about every year, and I would be unable to straighten up fully for a couple of weeks. After I started just a few calisthenics every morning -- pushups and situps -- the back problems diminished, and now I do a variety of back exercises. Nothing very strenuous and not many repetitions, but different things, religiously every morning. I haven't had to worry about my back for a decade. Well, I don't know that I'd be okay with bike crashes, ...
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Old 05-08-2011, 04:53 PM   #13
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The injuries may cause you to hold yourself differently (to ease the pain) or to walk/lift differently (to ease the pain).
Ah, that's another good possibility. I was very mindful of my back when I picked up that item.

I'd really hoped that my upper body exercises would protect me, but stuff happens.

I think the initial injury happened around '96. I got a new Dell computer, and carried it up 41 steps to my office. Didn't feel heavy, no problems, no pain or discomfort. Then I turned to put a book on a bookshelf and was struck down.

Yesterday I was 93 years old. Today I am 91.
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Old 05-08-2011, 04:56 PM   #14
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Help me Guess at Cause of Back Strain
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Old 07-03-2011, 08:38 PM   #15
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I have read several back pain threads and have not had this happen to me until Friday. OMG, now I know how you felt!! Been in bed 3 days, when I get out, it is with the help of a golf club (my cane). I can't believe how much this cane has helped me with things I couldn't have done (put clothes on, flush stool, snag things out of fridge) And when a sneeze comes, oh the pain!!!!! I think I am turning the corner, I hope this doesn't happen again for a long time!!!!
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Old 07-03-2011, 08:58 PM   #16
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A book called Stretching might be worth a look. It's been around a while, and your library might have a copy. It has stretching exercises for particular parts of the body, lower back, upper back, etc. It also has stretching routines to do before particular sports, running, bicycling, etc. Amazon.com: Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition (9780936070469): Bob Anderson, Jean Anderson: Books
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Old 07-04-2011, 04:19 AM   #17
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I also think it owes to lack of exercise on the back muscle. Even if you did exercise frequently but forgot to do so for a couple of weeks, your muscle would become weak and prone to accidents. I hope itís not because you are getting older,
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Old 07-04-2011, 08:19 AM   #18
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Maybe there is 'an assignable cause' but I don't think you can always know a reason, based on my own experience it comes with age to some extent. As you're in (relatively very) good shape, it's hard to imagine 10 lbs would cause a problem related to suspending strength training for 1Ĺ weeks. The bike accident (as Nords detailed) and twisting motion seem more likely, but I don't know how you could ever draw a firm conclusion.



I wake up some mornings with subtle back pain that goes away during the day just having just slept in a bad position I assume. And I get twinges lifting small items some times for no apparent reason. Sometimes the ache goes away in minutes, some times it takes days though not debilitating in the interim, just a little muscle reminder. It sounds like you're doing all the right things to minimize occurrences, you probably can't stop them altogether:
  • Some strength training including your back.
  • Remaining active in general, as you clearly are.
  • Taking some care with your back and physical activity generally.
  • Stretching does become more important with age, but obviously you can't stretch for every little physical activity you undertake in a day.
We're not old here at ER, but we're not 21 anymore either. As my 89 yr old Dad quotes, old age ain't for sissies...
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Old 07-04-2011, 08:37 AM   #19
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My conclusion is that although I was doing back exercises twice a week, they were the wrong exercises, doing more harm than good. Also not stretching and not having good posture contributed.

Sorry to hear you've joined this sad club, Mulligan. I'll share some things I've learned when I'm back at my regular computer. In the meantime walk and avoid sitting.
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Old 07-04-2011, 11:26 AM   #20
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Strength and stretching exercise worked fine for me -- I no longer get any back pain at all -- but they didn't work quickly. It took a couple of years of exercising before I noticed that my back didn't go out any longer, even with twisting lifts.
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