Part II: How Physical Therapy Can Help CrossFit Athletes

In my first CrossFit article, I shared information on lumbar strains. In this blog post, I’ll be discussing lumbar disc herniation/sciatica and what physical therapy techniques can help with recovery.


Lumbar Disc Herniation/Sciatica

 Sciatica is a term that describes leg pain which can incorporate numbness, tingling, sharp shooting pain and possibly weakness. The term sciatica is not a medical diagnosis, but rather used to describe an underlying medical condition. Sciatica can be caused from a multitude of medical diagnoses which include, but not limited to; lumbar disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis.


In CrossFit, lumbar disc herniation seems to be the most common injury, and it arises from improper lifting techniques. Healthy discs act as “shock absorbers” between each vertebral body and allow movement through the spine. Placing too much stress along the disc during extreme exertion, heavy deadlifts and squatting activities (from improper techniques) can cause injury to the disc which irritates the nerve.  


Integrated Treatment Approach

McKenzie Method: This method is comprised of a classification system of assessment, classification, treatment and prevention. With regards to lumbar disc herniations, the goal is to find a direction preference for mechanical disc reduction and centralization of radicular symptoms.  


Graston Techniques: This technique is an instrument assisted modality which mobilizes scar tissues and breaks down fascial restrictions which optimizes and maintains range of motion (ROM).


Dry Needling:  This technique utilizes hollow filiform needles or hollow core hypodermic needles for the treatment of muscle pain, ligamentous pain, nervous pain or osseous pain.  


Spinal Manipulation: This technique consists of a manipulative technique to the spine which is characterized as a high velocity low amplitude thrust which causes an audible “pop” to reduce pain and restore ROM to the spine.


Exercise: This treatment is comprised of specific exercises that are focused on restoring the core, glutes and the hamstrings to improve function.


Foam Rolling: Foam rolling is the process of self-myofascial release which utilizes a foam roller to release muscle tightness and trigger points by applying specific pressure to areas of the body to reduce pain and restore normal body functions.


If your WOD is suffering from a CrossFit injury, it’s best to seek action from a physical therapist. Contact our team today to find a location near you to help you get back to your workouts—pain free.


About Scott D. Jackson, PT, DPT, Cert DN, Cert SMT

Scott earned his B.S. in Physical Therapy with a minor in Psychological Sciences in 2005. He went on to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine in 2008. He later finished his residency program in 2011 through EIM Regis University with a specialization in spinal manipulation and orthopedic pain management. Scott has a passion for CrossFit and enjoys working with athletes on preventative programs to keep up with their grueling workouts.