Why So Many CrossFit Athletes Are Getting Back Pain After The Open Workout – And What To Do About It…

I’ve had a few conversations with some high level CrossFit athletes since the release of the Open Workout 17.1. Across the board, everyone was dealing with an increase in back and shoulder pain. We discussed not only the movements but the overall volume of the workout.  

There is a misconception that this acute episode of pain will resolve in a few days leading up to 17.2. Even worse, it will resolve in time to do the workout again so you can actually have a qualifying time. In most cases... these are just not realistic. 

Chances are that this is not your first bout with back pain. If you look back into your history, have you had multiple episodes of back pain? Each one consecutively resulting in a longer recovery?  

This is very telling of a neuromuscular instability issue that needs to be addressed. Most activities in CrossFit workouts primarily challenge a “High-Threshold” Strategy where everything is max effort, powerful, fast and non-stop. The way you brace your core for a max lift is not the same as lifting a pencil off the floor. 

It’s important to also train the “Low-Threshold” Strategies as well which carry over to 99% of your day instead of the 1% you need during a WOD. 

These are some of the common issues we see with the CrossFit athlete experiencing back pain: 

The muscles that were stiff and tonic:

  • Hip Flexors 
  • Quads
  • Lumbar Extensors
  • Rectus Abdominus 

This led to a severe weakness and disconnect from the:

  • Deep Spinal Stabilizers 
  • Glutes
  • Deeper Abdominals 

This combination leads to completing your entire workout in a poor and vulnerable spine position. If you constantly train in this “High-Threshold” manner, you will maximize your strength, but in the superficial big muscles, not the small and deep ones that count when it comes to solving back pain.

So how do we fix you? 

We need to teach you how to isolate the weak muscles and slowly progress from the basic core strength to sitting, standing, kneeling and dynamic core strength in a slow and mindful way. Sounds boring compared to your norm, but essential if you ever want to feel better. 

Rome was not built in a day, and neither will relief for your back. 

Are you a Cross-fit Athlete struggling with your WOD?

Is your back pain related to your shoulder pain?

Curious to find out what is holding you back? 

Give us a call at 626-365-1380