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Ace3's picture
Joined: Mar 10 2009
Posts: 47
Oh no... another back spasm

Hey Trifuelers, I've been a frequent reader of the Forums, but a 1st time poster. As the subject suggests, I am suffering from a back spasm. Here's my quick history before I ask my question. I'm a 48 yr old male who did his first OLY in 1986. Over the next 6 years I did over 30 events including 3 marathons. From 1993 to 2007 I stayed in good condition mostly from gym workouts and casual running. I've got the tri bug again and completed 4 tris in 2008 including a HIM. For 2009 I have a new TT bike, a solid training plan, a real good endurance base, and 5 events scheduled from Jun-Aug, my first one on Jun 6th. Last night doing nothing more than casually bending over I felt my back "grab" and knew immediately that I'm in for a couple weeks of pain. It's not the first time, in fact it seems that every 5-6 months what starts out as a tight back eventually "grabs" and puts me in this condition. I've used chiropractic (x-rays negative for spine damage), PT, stretching, ice, etc. to try to relieve it, but relief usually requires time off, more than I like to take especially this time of year.

Since it's not the first time I am extremely aware of taking care of my back and injury prevention. I have worked my core through the off season, I have a stretching routine I do several times a week, and I have tight hamstrings and glutes that I know can factor in to back issues. In trying to figure out "why now", my last week was not a normal training week, in fact it was planned to be an active recovery week with multiple days off. We traveled to the mountains of NC for my daughter's college graduation and of course I took my bike so I could get at least one mountain ride in over a long weekend. Last week I swam 1000 on Tuesday followed by a 4 mile run, ran 6.5 tempo run on Weds, then on Saturday did my mountain ride, just 7 miles total, the first half a 3.5 mile grind to the top. And for 4 nights I slept on a bed much too soft for my liking. After taking Sun and Mon off I ran a hard 6.3 miles on Tuesday, and feeling tight on Weds went through my stretching routine in the morning. So that's all that lead up to my spasm last night, and this morning just putting socks on was a painful challenge.

So I'm looking for insight from others who may have the same problem. What therapies have you used? What stretches can you suggest? I'm open to anything I might learn from your collective experiences that could speed my recovery along without missing too many workouts. Thanks for your input!

kylie's picture
Joined: Jun 1 2004
Posts: 5521
I don't ever have the same

I don't ever have the same kind of back pain, but I do find for that I do have that regular chiro/stretching/etc is the key -- not just when it feels tight.

For when it is bad, I love a painful massage, more chiro, stretching, sometimes ultrasound.

Hope it gets better for you!!

3xFast's picture
Joined: Sep 28 2008
Posts: 26
Have you considered a

Have you considered a compression top (like Skins or Zoot)? I have had a lot of luck in healing quicker and reducing back/shoulder pain by wearing one. I wear mine exercising, sleeping, at work, whenever, until I feel better. In general these are designed to improve blood flow and provide muscle support. This is different than what you would find with Under Armor, Nike, Brooks, or other 'big box' brands. Skins uses a gradient compression to improve blood flow, and with the tops a varied compression to support the back and open the chest. Zoot uses a zoned compression, varying compression by muscle group, to improve support/stimulation/blood flow.

You might also look at medial glute strengthening, hamstring curls while lying down on your stomach, and dynamic stretches as opposed to static stretching.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

groovyjen's picture
Joined: Jun 11 2008
Posts: 675
I had previously always been

I had previously always been a bit skeptical of the whole chiro thing, but it really helped when I had a back flare up a few years back.

Good luck and feel better soon.

rob999's picture
Joined: Dec 29 2006
Posts: 27
I feel you.... I started a

I feel you.... I started a thread a few months back that was almost the same thing...

I had done a swim workout and was literally walking to my car when I felt that same 'grab'...and it was a bad one. I still don't have much advice for avoiding them, I am working to try and fix any muscle imbalances.

For treatment I cannot recommend Ice packs enough, I have one I got from a physical therapist that is about 10 x14 inches or so it works great for really cooling the area and removing swelling. For me my fastest recovery is: Ice for 15 minutes about as often as I can for the first 48 hours (I might ice 4 times in a night) Oh and that huge ice pack on your back is not comfortable...
After that I start adding heat, 10 minutes of heat, wait 30 minutes, 10 minutes of ice wait 30 minutes....repeat as desired.

I also found that advil only helped for the first 24 hours after that I feel that I heal faster w/o any.

That is what works best for me...but I am no doctor....just injury prone.

Semper Tri's picture
Joined: Jan 27 2009
Posts: 427
Due to an injury overseas

Due to an injury overseas I've had back issues since 2005, basically my rib cage/upper spine rotated a couple degrees and settled back down on the lower spine that had not moved. My chiro keeps the nerve/spine associated pain away but because of the odd angle my muscles tighten, cramp, spasm at will. Heat pads/packs, ice, long slow stretches in the sauna and hot tub at the gym have helped and I take as many massages as my fiance will dish out. icy hot patches are quick and easy, sometimes helpful, other times just an odd smelling sticker.
good luck, hope you don't miss too much

tri-ac's picture
Joined: Dec 7 2005
Posts: 3717
i don't have a magic remedy

i don't have a magic remedy for you...i sympathize on the back spasm. i like alternating sauna/cold plunges for loosening up my body. and the calf, hammie & butt stretches are the most effective for me

i have been able to stay pretty back-healthy of late, and the rare moments of back strain have come after sitting for a long time in a poorly supported seat (like a slouchy couch or a car seat [i'm tall and don't fit most vehicles]) and then getting up or picking up my son soon after...so my comment is, in addition to the core work and stretching you're already doing, pay attention to your posture and back support all the time

i hope you feel better soon...it's such a frustrating ailment to have over and over again!

firegirl's picture
Joined: Jan 29 2006
Posts: 78
i'm not knocking

i'm not knocking chiropracters, since there are definitely some good ones out there that really help with non-operative back pain, but you should get evaluated by a doctor. if your pain is only in your back and not going down your legs, it is likely muscular as you suggest, or facet or degenerative, and you'll just have to wait it out like you have before. other things in your back can cause spasm, though, so you should get seen by a back guy if you're having repeated episodes that take you out for weeks at a time.

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