/ Upper back pain - exercises/stretches to help?

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geebus - on 11 Oct 2012
I've been getting some upper back pain which is definitely related to indoor bouldering, if not the sole cause.

Not sure how much the climbing it's self is actually doing it, but the drops certainly aren't helping. I've been making an effort to climb down, but of course that doesn't always happen. When I do drop, have been making an effort to cushion the fall decently.

Pain is between my shoulder blades.

So looking for any advice on what I can do to strengthen the area.

Some history:
Previously had similar pain a few years ago which turned out to have been from wearing a heavy helmet on a sports motorbike. Same helmet was ok on a more upright trail motorbike.
Have also been doing cycling and running recently. It seems to be the cycling and bouldering that are causing the problems.
koalapie - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus: Sounds like a case of goseeaphysioitis!
geebus - on 11 Oct 2012
The doctor diagnosed me with that for my lower back pain.
Despite all the general abuse received for the following six weeks (sticking sharp objects in me, electric shocks and general physical abuse), it didn't help .
Am friends with a physio actually, but feel bad about always messaging her whenever I have a problem - and so far all such problems I've had, I've found have only been overcome by increasing strength/fitness/technique in the area affected.
lost1977 - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to koalapie:

i would rather see a biomechanics coach
as646 on 12 Oct 2012 - ipv4-92-244-168-98.static.as8844.net
In reply to geebus: It sounds like deadlifts would help. Doing deadlifts (with good form!) will do wonders for your posture, not to mention help with building up your traps and lower back, as well as most other muscles in your body.

I stress that they need to be done with good form though, otherwise you'll probably end up blowing out your back.
robert mirfin - on 12 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus: Sounds like a posture problem combined with a muscle imbalance. I've been told it could be weak Rhomboids in your back as climbing doesn't really get theses muscles as strong as the others. Check that your shoulders aren't being pulled forwards,if so make an effort to stretch the fronts of your shoulders, you might find some on here http://www.sensational-yoga-poses.com Also neck exercises to strengthen the upper back and neck muscles that support the head . Neck Exercise - Cervical Retractions

Sit upright in a chair and place one finger on your chin.

Look forward and gently pull your head backward while keeping your chin tucked for 10 seconds.

You should feel a stretch in the base of your neck.

Try this over a few days and see if it works, I'm no expert but they definately helped me

Also try and keep good posture and don't slouch

Stuart_Burbidge - on 12 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus:

I get a similar pain during and after cycling, between shoulder blades and across upper back. This is far more pronounced on long leisurely cycling with mates rather than full racing sportives (even tho these are generally longer/harder) Presume it is the form/posture on the bike. Head and back alot nearer horizontal, more shock absorbed by bend arms and core. Appose to upright cycling, chatting to mates supported on mostly straight arms, rounded back.

Might explain the cycing side for you...race position all the way!
Never had a problem bouldering tho, sorry.

The Lemming - on 12 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus:

Cat and dog stretches may help.
robert mirfin - on 12 Oct 2012
In reply to The Lemming: Tried that but the cat wasn't too happy about it ;)
Mark Kemball - on 12 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus: I have had problems with my lower back , sciatica etc, and was recomended "The Back Sufferers' Bibile" by Sarah Key. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Keys-Back-Sufferers-Bible/dp/0091814944/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8... The exrcises from that have helped me a great deal.
koalapie - on 12 Oct 2012
In reply to lost1977: In that case you might drop by the sports psychologists chair whilst you are there!
lost1977 - on 12 Oct 2012
In reply to koalapie:

from everyone i know who has had dealings with biomechanics coaches has given them top marks when it comes to providing long term solutions to problems similar to this.
andybenham - on 12 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus: I tore my Rhomboids a year or so back. The physio got me doing the following warm ups before all exercise:

Link fingers with palms facing you. Hold arms out horizontally in front of you (straight armed). tip head forward so you are looking straight down. Should feel a deep stretch across backs of shoulders.

Hug your opposing shoulder (left hand holds r shoulder,etc) then lift elbows.

Strengthening exercises were various types up push ups to sort out muscle imbalances:

Standard push ups (shoulder width hands elbows pointing backwards)

Narrow push ups - on knees to start with if necessary - hands point towards each other, middle fingers touching - these are bloody hard - take care!

Also in a plank (push up "UP" position) bring your head and shoulders forward as far as you can before bending the arms to complete the downwards dip of a push up, then lift back up. Again start on knees to get the reps in then build up to doing it on toes.

You are aiming for 3 sets of 10 at least of each. After about 4 weeks doing these very morning all was good again.
koalapie - on 13 Oct 2012
In reply to lost1977: That's great, but this is an internet forum and one should moderate their levels advice towards the side of conservatism. Resultingly given the described symptoms (particularly on landing) I think someone with extensive training in pathology and biomechanics is probably more appropriatte. It wouldn't surprise me if the biomechanist said go see a decent physio, merely duplicating this process, and potential costs. That's not to take anything away from any member of the medical/sporting team. The physio should be a nice balance between the biomechanist and a doctor.
geebus - on 13 Oct 2012
Cheers for all the thoughts.

Unfortunately I don't have cash to splash at the moment, otherwise would happily pay for some professional help if it was going to help.
The idea of a 'biomechanics' coach definitely sounds interesting.

Generally in my experience a physio may sort out the pain, but not the causes of it - fine if it's a previous injury, but not if it's an on-going thing.
And, if I went to the doctor, pretty sure they'd say "well, stop cycling" rather than wanting to refer me etc.

Interesting about sport vs casual cycling - I've been riding hybrids, which partly I got with the hope they'd be more comfortable than road bikes and cause me less back issues!
I do have aero bars on my 'distance' bike (as opposed to the cheaper one I use around town and have panniers on etc.)

koalapie - on 14 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus:
> > Generally in my experience a physio may sort out the pain, but not the causes of it - fine if it's a previous injury, but not if it's an on-going thing.
I wouldn't agree with this, not least because it doesn't make sense. The physio either didn't do their job properly, the client didn't go back once the pain was abolished or was non-compliant with their maintenance program. This type of general statement would apply more to a chiropractor.

> And, if I went to the doctor, pretty sure they'd say "well, stop cycling" rather than wanting to refer me etc.
As far as I am aware no one has suggested to go to the doctor!

Think about where and what order you would go if it was all free.

> I do have aero bars on my 'distance' bike (as opposed to the cheaper one I use around town and have panniers on etc.)

siwid - on 14 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus:

Have something very similar when I'm doing lots of commuting on a bike combined with bouldering. These exercises really helped me -

These press ups seemed to strengthen the area where I get pain, the other exercises on there may be worth a look too.


I can't find a video for the other one I do so shall try to explain!

Lie on your front with your face down and arms out straight at right angles. Then raise the back of your hands to the ceiling as though you're trying to make them touch together behind your back (they should be a long way away from touching!). I do about 20 of these slowly. You can also do them with your arms at 45 degrees so you're body is making a Y shape and also have your arms bent at right angles.

Hope that one makes sense.

Finally, I had a look on a few cycling forums and it seems to be quite a common problem on there. Main advice was to loosen up your grip, keep you arms bent and shoulders relaxed. I found leaving the house 5 mins earlier so I could slow down a bit made all of this a lot easier.

Hope you get somewhere with it!
geebus - on 14 Oct 2012

I had been making an effort to go for a loose grip (actually would kinda just circle my hand around and let the bar float to prove it's 'loose' and make sure shoulders weren't hunched.)

However, last night went for a half hour ride to burn some calories last night and tried to make more of an effort to keep a bend in my arms. Did seem to help a bit, but hard to say.
geebus - on 19 Oct 2012
Bit of an update - I think the bent arms has done it on the bike, cheers!

Now noticing significantly less pain and doesn't really seem to get worse from riding - though do get a bit from the aero bars.

Pain has now moved towards the left a bit.
Chistmas 2006 I chipped a small bit on the top of my humerus. Hardly bothered me since; just a little pain from tendons catching if I positioned my arm very specifically (to the point I had to really think about trying to get that twinge of pain and seems to be pretty much gone.)
Was wondering if it could have been related to that.

Did some rope climbing yesterday (boulder wall closed at Leeds wall, so absolutely no bouldering) and it did seem to hurt more after. So I presume it's partly just the act of climbing, not just the landings.

Trying the press up things, it actually seemed to make it hurt a bit more if anything.

Overall is getting better, but need to actually work out a proper 'plan' of stuff to try.
Rollo - on 19 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus:

I have had grief for years in that area despite being fairly "strong". My cause is probably a shoulder injury.

Stretching is deffo key.

In terms of cycling, as well as bending arms and relaxing grip, try to relax and drop the shoulders; I alwasy find myself tightening them up and have to force myself to relax. Also I find road-bike hadlebars are a better option since they give you more options to change grip position and not get stuck in one posture.
geebus - on 20 Oct 2012
Cheers - should have mentioned that dropping shoulders was one of the first things I tried.

I remembered back to 'spin' classes at the gym where the teacher was always going on about 'relax your shoulders' and realised I was riding with really hunched shoulders, so having been making a concious effort to keep them low.
paul mitchell - on 21 Oct 2012
In reply to geebus: Lean your back over the edge of a chair or sofa and start gently,putting varying degrees of weight on the affected part.It may well realign your spine.This is a problem I rarely get nowadays ,as I train a lot less. A lot of overhanging climbing is going to put tension in that area,as is campussing.
Try the Suryanamaskar sequence in yoga.Find it on the net.


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