Is It Safe to Continue In the CrossFit Open With Back Pain?

Back pain

Throughout the weekend, I have received numerous calls, texts, and emails by several local CrossFit athletes and one of our current clients, Steve, 42, from Carlsbad, asking a popular question following this years 17.1 CrossFit Open!…

“I felt this burning pain in my back in the middle of the workout and it just got progressively worse as I continued to push through it. I woke up the following morning feeling super sore, achy and stiff and needed to take Ibuprofen to help me get through the day. I really don’t want to stop, but is it safe to continue?”

Back pain

Believe me,   I understand the frustration, and I also know that the thought of dropping out of the CrossFit Open and having to wait another year to see where you stand can be disappointing. I also know that the thought of doing any movement at all when you’re going through some kind of back pain might even feel a bit scary…

You definitely don’t want to wake up one day realizing rolling out of bed, putting on your socks and shoes, and sitting at work have become a major struggle. But, don’t let that worry you too much – that’s rarely the case.

But what is true, is that every case of back pain presents itself in a unique fashion.  Therefore, it is necessary to determine whether you are dealing with just another muscle tweak, or a excruciating painful amount of structural and functional damage.

So, before you begin to freak out and before pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with a medical provider, I would recommend going through the following checklist first.  If you’re having one or more of the following symptoms, your best bet is to be screened by a CrossFit trained physical therapist.

  1. Unable to find a position of comfort.
  2. Pain stays at the same intensity for over a 48-72 hour period.
  3. Unable to reduce your pain with over the counter painkillers, gentle self-massage, ice or heat treatments.
  4. Pain reduces in severity, but continues to be present after 10 days.
  5. Feel numbness and tingling in your back or legs.
  6. With a single foot you have difficulty raising on to your toes.
  7. Suddenly tripping while walking due to a floppy/weak ankle (i.e. drop foot).
  8. Loss of sensation anywhere.

If you answered “yes” to any of the symptoms in the checklist above, the worst thing you can do is push through the CrossFit Open or your normal workouts. Your best bet is to seek out treatment and be assessed by a sports physical therapist to provide you with guidance, allowing your back to heal appropriately.

Through my years of treating back pain as a sports performance physical therapist, I can confidently say that 95% of back pain cases are not from a neurological issue coming from your back – meaning you don’t have to call it quits with the CrossFit Open and you can safely and independently manage your painful episode. The ability to successfully self-treat will save you time, money, aggravation and be ready for crushing 17.2.

So, if you do not have the symptoms in the checklist above, but have a stiff, sore and achy back, the real question we should be answering is…

What exercises can I actually be doing to help me recover?

Well, I’m glad you asked!  Because too much exercise, or strenuous exercise could make it worse or keep your pain  hanging around longer than you want to.

Below are two simple exercises you can start implementing into your routine to reduce the tension and stiffness in your back and help to increase range of motion in your thoracic spine and hips, taking the stress off your low back.

A combination of stretches and exercises will help you recover and return safely to continue in the CrossFit Open.

Click On This Link For More Information About Keeping You Healthy For CrossFit

Click On This Link To Receive More Information About Easing Your Back Pain.

Click On This Link For More Information About Keeping You Healthy For CrossFit

Click On This Link To Receive More Information About Easing Your Back Pain.

If these exercises don’t help you by the time 17.2 comes around, then there could be other variables involved and I would highly suggest you contact us now for a full body assessment to keep you crushing the WOD and performing at your best!

Dedicated to your health,

Dr. Oscar Andalon


Performance Physical Therapist at LEVEL4 Physio-Wellness-Performance
Dr. Oscar Andalon is a leading and trusted sports physical therapist, strength coach, performance enhancement specialist, educator, author, and Co-Founder of LEVEL4 Physio-Wellness-Performance – an Encinitas integrated wellness center for people in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond, who value their health and want to restore or maximize their active and healthy lifestyle.

For more than 16 years, thousands of athletes, fitness enthusiasts and active people of all ages, levels and sports including Olympic medalists, professional, collegiate and recreational athletes have consulted Oscar; looking for answers to concerning questions about a fast end to their pain and best ways to improving performance.

Prior to living in Carlsbad, CA, he worked as Clinic Director for a 20,000 sq.ft. sports physical therapy and performance center. He became known as the “athlete whisperer” in the Pacific Northwest by becoming the leading sports performance enhancement physical therapist and CrossFit injury rehab and performance specialist. He also was known as a consultant to the Nike WHQ in Portland, OR.

Oscar’s passion for excelling in sports earned him the opportunity to compete in soccer both at the Division 1 collegiate level at University of San Francisco and at the professional level playing for the California Jaguars; giving him the understanding and experience of knowing what it takes to perform and excel at the highest level of competition. Oscar is an orthopedic and sports performance specialist with a true passion in helping athletes and fitness fanatics of all ages and divisions, serving as an educator to bridge the gap between rehab and strength and conditioning.

Latest posts by Oscar Andalon, DPT, STC, MTC, CSCS, CF-L1, MWOD, USAW, FMS/SFMA (see all)

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