As I wrote yesterday, lower back pain in no fun. It’s even less fun when you know your own poor judgment was the direct cause.
I woke up feeling a lot better this morning. There’s some soreness still present, but it’s pretty manageable. The thing is, tomorrow is a lift day, specifically workout A in my 5×5 strength training plan. That means the barbell bench press, barbell bent over row, and barbell hack squat. The latter two exercises will put strain on my lower back. Should I risk it?
Yesterday, when I felt a lot more debilitated, I responded by first taking some ibuprofen, then I applied heat, and then later on, I applied cold. For those last two remedies, I may have been exactly backward according to this article at Best Health.
Of course, I applied heat and then cold in the same day, while they’re recommending applying cold several times a day for 20 minutes a shot for the first few days and then switching to heat. Not that there isn’t plenty of disagreement on heat vs. cold for lower back pain according to different sources.
One way that I’ve been helping my back I forgot about until today. Every morning after breakfast, I take a number of dietary supplements including Curcumin 2K with Black Pepper Extract, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Problem. I want to lift tomorrow without encountering significant risk of exacerbating my lower back pain. It would be ideal if that pain could be eliminated between now and tomorrow morning. What to do?
Don’t Lift Tomorrow
Probably the single most sensible thing I could do would be to not go to the gym tomorrow, or if I go, just to do cardio and no lifting. But I really hate to miss a lifting session. Cardio is fine, but something inside of me really just loves lifting.
Cardio is a necessity for heart health and it assists in getting rid of pesky fat, but I’ve worked hard to start getting stronger. I don’t want anything to delay that process if at all possible (and I’m aware that really hurting my back will delay that process).
Lift But Lift Lighter
On Wednesday, the warm up lifts didn’t particularly bother me. It was lifting with my working weight that hurt. I could do my regular plan A routine, but just do it a lot lighter. That seems like going backward, but it has the benefit of at least doing something with the weights while reducing my risk.
Do Cardio and Stretch Tomorrow
I just mentioned this above but here I’ll expand upon the idea. I could exercise but take it easy, and especially avoiding anything that might stress my lower back. I could put off lifting until Monday and see if, at that point, my back feels up to it.
I did abs and cardio today, but went easier on the abs than I usually do, since ab work invariably involves the lower back to one degree or another.
For context, here’s what I did. I rested ~60 seconds between sets.
Weighted decline bench crunches
Weighted cable crunches
Captain’s chair leg lifts (body weight)
After that, I did 40 minutes cardio on the elliptical machine.
As I said, anything that caused discomfort to my lower back, I backed off from, which is why I didn’t do as many reps as I could have for decline crunches and kept the weight constant for the cable crunches.
What else could I do?
I could try to emphasize all those activities that have the best chance of helping my back out between now and tomorrow.
Spine-Health.com has six suggestions:
- Release your inner endorphins
- Get restorative sleep
- Exercise your core
- Soothe pain with temperature
- Stretch your hamstrings
- Engage your brain
I’ve already done number 4 on the list this morning by applying cold.
Number 1 includes activities such as aerobic exercise, which I’ve also already done, massage, meditation, acupuncture, listening to music and eating dark chocolate.
Except for those last two, the others require some preparation and monetary cost. Some of that relates to number 6, which I’ll get to in a bit.
Number 2 I try to get every night with varying degrees of success. It’s probably one of the reasons why my back feels better this morning. One of the suggestions under this item is to cut back on caffeine, which I’m loathe to do. It also says to eat “the correct foods” which is amazingly vague, but I already have an idea of how to eat right.
Number 3, exercise the core. Well, I did that today too, although I emphasized the abs and avoided the lower back as much as possible.
Stretching the hams is news to me, but I guess I was trying to do that the other day when I chose straight leg deadlifts over bent legs because it stretched my back and hams out.
Engage the brain. This one has a lack of information, but in a related note, my wife has me reading a book written by Nick Ortner called The Tapping Solution which seems to employ acupressure points, reflexology, and self-affirmations to help relieve any number of maladies including chronic pain
The success of this method is highly dependent on the subject believing it will work, but the benefit is that it’s very do-it-yourself and is pretty much cost-free. Ortner also has a website promoting this technique and his products, and if you’re into podcasts, Ortner has appeared on Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Radio as well as having produced a number of his own podcasts.
Of course, this is only one method if engaging your brain in the service of pain management, but it’s the one the missus is having me look into right now.
Health.com promotes four back pain management techniques including Yoga, Massage, Acupuncture, and Talk therapy. Except for talk therapy, these have already been covered by other sources, and seeing a psychologist or counselor seems a little excessive given the nature of my exercise injury.
Gently stretching out my hams and my lower back seems the most useful new short-term method of ameliorating my current condition.
The bottom line is that I can do whatever I feel is necessary to treat my back with tender loving care between now and tomorrow, but I should let my body tell me what it can and can’t do once tomorrow arrives.
Yesterday I made a Turmeric, Ginger tea and last evening I made a Turmeric Tomato soup.
I am amazed at the results after this morning. The stabbing pains have subsided and only a little lingering pain remains. I added apple cider vinegar too to the mix in both. I think after a day of the same eat and drink I’ll be feeling no pain at all.
Turmeric is a major ingredient in my morning Curcumin supplement, so it makes a certain amount of sense to consume foods and drinks that contain natural anti-inflammatories.
Of course, none of this is a guarantee that I’ll wake up tomorrow morning with zero lower back pain, but it’s worth a shot.
A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
–William G.T. Shedd