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All right, Internet Genuises, now solve this one!

Posted by Lissa on June 10, 2010

Good morning everyone!  (At least if cold and rainy and way too frickin’ early can be called good.)  Since you were all so amazing on the sewing and leatherwork question, I’m upping the stakes to personal health.  Can you magically solve this for me, too?

Starting yesterday morning, I noticed a twinge in my back.  Whenever I bent my chin to my chest a sharp, stabbing pain took up residence in my spine between my shoulder blades.  No matter how often I tried to stretch it, the pain remained.  Maybe even got worse.

Now, I figured it was a pinched-nerve thing — it’s my spinal cord that hurts, right?  But Mike thinks it’s my rhomboid muscle.  I was struggling pretty hard to finish my lat pull-downs yesterday; he thinks I strained a muscle in my back and should therefore

a) go a few days without lifting

b) stop “stretching” it, ’cause that’s making it worse!

In addition to the spinal-cord pinched-nerve theory and the rhomboid muscle hypothesis, I’m also going to offer the quite-plausible option that a spine-hugger alien (kissing cousin to a face-hugger alien) has taken up residence in my back betwixt my shoulder blades.  It’s likely that every time I try to stretch I move the alien’s little nest about, which pisses it off and makes it drop stitches, and it therefore stabs me with a knitting needle to make me shut up and hold still.

What do you think?

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9 Responses to “All right, Internet Genuises, now solve this one!”

  1. Carteach0 said

    Try a good massage therapist. The problem could be solved pretty quick, even if not ‘painlessly’. Spoken from experience.

  2. ZerCool said

    When you started out with “pinching pain in back” I started thinking “Ohnoohno… not kidney stones … wouldn’t wish on…” then I read further on. I got nothing. But Carteach is making a good suggestion. Hell, even if they don’t fix THAT pain, a thirty-minute massage has to make you feel better SOMEWHERE, right?

  3. Mike said

    What she left out is that I diagnosed this from the experience of straining such muscles doing similar stuff (trying to lift a little too much) in the past. If she doesn’t follow Dr. Mike’s advice, she’ll likely wind up with other shoulder problems as she subconsciously compensates for the injured muscle.

  4. Cart is right, I believe.
    We’ve a friend of ours up here who studied the massage thing, & it works. The therapy can hurt a tad (while being administered), but breaking up those knots in the muscle fixes the problem.
    The Mrs. has had more experience with it (jump in here Homey), but follow that line of thought.

    But, if it IS aliens, can I have the Mosquito?

  5. Patrick said

    I’ve had the same thing from struggling to finish pull-ups, which is equivalent to what you were doing. I don’t know if it’s the rhomboid muscle per se, but I’d guess you jerked your head forward at some point during the exercise and pulled something.

    Aleve and time did it for me.

    (Actually, for me, I also had some pain turning my head very far to either direction or pulling my head all the way back.)

  6. Mrs Doubletrouble said

    Massage therapy should help you, it’s worked for me many times. Better than almost anything else, doctors included. It may take more than one session, depending on how deep the injury is. After massage, you may need to do some stretching to get it working right again, be sure to ask the therapist how to prevent this in the future and what you should do for stretching or warm ups. And let it rest, don’t do more lifting, until the pain goes away.

    And I’d like to have the Mosquito too. We can share! I’ll even make it a nice holster.

  7. secretlivesofscientists said

    A and B.

    This sound very much like what has happened to me several times (and I know you have tight shoulders like me, as well). It is most likely something a little out of kilter with your vertebrae, causing some nerve pinching during the bending motions. It’s called a “subluxation” and you should get checked out by a chiropractor. The verbebrae have a lot of little facets (joints) and processes and if one gets a little bit unhappy and out of place, it wont play nice with others, and so you have pain when you do some movements. Do not stretch it, it will not help, and might make it worse. Often, these “subluxations” (which is what it sounds like you might have) are accompanied or preceded by strained rhomboids. If that is the case, stretching the rhomboid is the opposite of what you want to do and will result in the muscle recoiling against the stretch and stiffening up more (angry rhomboid! grrr!). Rather, you will need to contract the muscle to relieve the strain. Luckily, you can do this while sitting at your desk. Try raising your shoulders gently upwards towards your ears. Gently! Think: micro-movement. At some point during this motion, if you’re not in too much pain/spasm, you should feel your shoulderblades begin to draw your shoulders back – that’s the rhomboid muscle. Repeat slowly moving your shoulders up and back.

    And ice is your best friend right now. There’s not much space around your vertebrae, so reducing swelling will be really good, and it will help with the pain.

    Try to see a chiropractor ASAP, because the muscles in your back will start trying to compensate for unhappy, malfunctioning muscles, and this could lead to further complications.

  8. secretlivesofscientists said

    If it is a pinched nerve/ subluxation, massage should wait until after you see a chiropractor. Your muscles wont benefit from massage if the nerve signals they’re receiving are all wonky. No one really knows what causes it – I’ve gone to sleep feeling absolutely perfect and woken up with one, but strain and postural imbalance are factors.

    Have you been doing a lot of crunches? Crunches work the rectus abdominus which actually pulls your chest, and subsequently your head forward, and this puts a lot of strain on your upper back and neck. Mike is sort of right that if you’ve been doing a lot of abdominals work, or working the muscles on the front of the shoulders and chest more than the back, it can contribute to imbalance. Often, the weak part of your body is actually the opposite of what you think. Many people think they need to do a ton of crunches and abs work in order to tone up the stomach muscles, but the truth is that the stomach muscles don’t need a lot of working out – IF your in good alignment with your back. I know this from having a very flexible a.k.a. floppy and hypermobile back. Our back muscles bear the brunt of the weaknesses from having to sit and do stuff on computers etc. This stretches them out and weakens them. Strengthen your back and you won’t need to do more than a few short sets of 10 crunches or leg levers (nice huh? Doesn’t everyone hate doing sit ups?). Other key body parts to getting your back to take up the slack are your hamstrings and hip flexors, which also become shortened and weak from sitting. Usually, we need to strengthen the hammies and lenthen the hip flexors. The best way to do this is to do a lot of hip extensions – laying on your stomach and raising a straight leg a few inches off the ground. Just make sure you are initiating the movement from your hamstrings, not your back, and only work within the range in which you can feel your hamstring contracting.

    Once your back muscles are keeping your posture in good balance, your abdominals will naturally engage, and they’ll engage in the proper ways i.e. inward like a corset, without pulling your chest down and your head forward.

    You might just need to change the way you do some of your other exercises, like bicept curls, so that your spine is supported. An easy way to do this is bicept curls while laying on your back. Consider using resitance bands as well. You can do tricept presses and straight arm raises lying on your back with a resistance band anchored behind you. If you’ve been doing crunches, try doing leg levers instead. It will work the abdominals without putting any pressure on your neck and upper back.

    -Dr. Barbie

  9. Breda said

    Go to a chiropractor. Really.

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