CrossFit Back Injury Prevention Checklist

by Chris Centeno, MD /

crossfit back injury

Pro CrossFit is an amazing thing to watch. People with what look like superhuman bodies perform lifts and feats that defy the imagination. It requires incredible discipline, form, commitment, and truly knowing and understanding your body. Then there are the amateurs, like me, who do CrossFit because it produces better results through high-level exercise. We likely see more injuries than the average gym rat who hops on the elliptical three times a week,  but there is something both categories have in common—the potential for a CrossFit back injury.

The problem with a back injury is that often the symptoms are not in your back at all, so they tend to be overlooked or considered separate problems that have nothing to do with your back. Given the propensity for a back injury to take a CrossFitter out of the game, it’s important to be able to identify these problems early. So how can you tell if you have an impending spine problem?

There are 5 early warning signs to be aware of, and our CrossFit Back Injury Prevention Checklist below will help you determine if you have any of these warning signs. If you have one or more of the warning signs, you may want to be evaluated further to see if you are in danger of a CrossFit back injury.

1. Chronically Tight Hamstrings

Are your hamstrings always tight? Do you constantly feel the need to stretch them, but they just tighten back up when you do? Maybe your CrossFit trainer has told you it’s just a tight muscle that needs stretching. You have to understand one thing in order to understand why your hamstrings are always tight: they get instructions from the nerves in your low back, so when your hamstrings are tight, it’s a warning sign that your back is irritated and if left untreated could easily become a CrossFit back injury.

2. Chronic Hamstring Pulls

Are you constantly pulling your hamstrings and having to use the same techniques mentioned in number 1 above to temporarily relieve them? This is also a warning sign that there is an irritation rooted in your back. Watch the brief video below on chronic hamstring pulls:

3. Chronic Heel Pain

Have you tried everything you can think of eliminate your heel pain? Physical therapy, medications, calf stretches, devices for heel pain? Has a doctor injected steroids into your heel, but you’ve still had very little relief? Like your hamstrings, your heels are supplied by the nerves in your lower back. When certain back nerves are left untreated, this can lead to more serious injuries in your heels.

4. Throbbing Arm or One Where the Muscles Pulsate

Does your arm throb, or can you see the pulsations, little areas that jump around randomly, sometimes? Most likely this issue is being caused by the nerves in your neck. When those nerves are irritated, they can send warning signals through the muscles in the arm. Over time, untreated issues in your neck can cause arm problems, like shredded tendons and other CrossFit injuries.

5. Joints That Ache After Exercise

Do you have joints that ache after you exercise? Joint aches after exercise can be warning signs of early arthritis, and it’s important that you address it quickly to avoid more serious joint damage. But aching joints can also be caused by your back. Your back houses the nerves that drive the muscles around the knees, for example. Hence, a problem with a nerve in your back can impact how those muscles work. Low-level nerve irritation usually isn’t noticed by patients as back or leg pain. It just causes the muscles to misfire, destroying the otherwise needed protection for the knee joint.

Treat with Your Own Stem Cells or Platelets

Precise minimally invasive injections of your own concentrated stem cells or platelets may prevent small problems from becoming a full-blown CrossFit back injury and other CrossFit injuries. Growth factors found in platelets are the active ingredient in platelet rich plasma (PRP), similar to the way that caffeine is the active ingredient in coffee. It’s the growth factors that stimulate the local stem cells to wake up and do their job. The last thing you want is to lose is your ability to do CrossFit, so staying ahead of potential injuries by using advanced injections may make all the difference.

Regenexx patient and CrossFit professional athlete and trainer, Matt Chan, has been able to continue his CrossFit training thanks to the advanced injections he received using his own platelets.

“It’s important for me to keep all of my body’s materials,” Matt emphasizes. “I don’t want to cut things. I don’t want to clip things…because it would always limit my performance in the long run.” Can any CrossFitters out there relate to that statement?

The upshot? Use this CrossFit Back Injury Prevention Checklist to identify these warning signs early, so you can avoid a world of hurt. Physical therapy to remediate the problem is always the first choice, but if that fails or the problem is already too big for therapy to handle, then minimally invasive injections of your own platelets may do the trick by limiting your downtime and getting you back to CrossFit quickly!

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Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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