Physical Therapy for CrossFit

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Let’s set the scene. You’re into CrossFit. You clean and jerk, deadlift, and double-under like a boss. Still, safety is your main concern, and your coach modifies your form during workouts to prevent injury. During your most recent WOD—workout of the day—you notice a subtle twinge in your back. You go home, drink a paleo concoction, ice your back, stretch it out, and go to bed.

The next day, you can hardly crawl out of bed, and you definitely aren’t going to make it to CrossFit that night—even sitting in your chair at work kills. But you’re an athlete—no pain, no gain, right?—so you consider just pushing through tonight’s workout.

Hold it! Don’t go for another set! No more ass to the grass until you get your back checked out. I know; I know: you’re strong. But is your strength in the right parts of your body? Because big biceps don’t necessarily equal a steady frame.

Your joints need a strong foundation to push heavy weight—that’s what keeps your body stable when you lift. Not only is joint strength important, but joint mobility is, too. Joint mobility means you have full range of motion, both actively and passively. Active range of motion (AROM) is when you move the joint on your own (without assistance) to the surrounding muscles. Passive range of motion (PROM) is when you make no effort and a PT (physical therapist), or a piece of equipment, moves your joint through its range of motion. The stronger and more mobile your joints, the higher your fitness level.

Along with strong and mobile joints, a strong and flexible core is crucial to stabilizing your body during exercise. All of your limbs are anchored by your core. So, if your core is not strong, your motor control will be limited, which puts you at a higher risk of injury. Now remember, your core is not just your abs. It includes all of the muscles in your hips and midsection. To move efficiently and prevent injury, you must achieve core strength, flexibility, and control.

Back to our scenario: After spending an entire day in pain, you might be wondering if you’re injured. Did you know you can see a physical therapist for evaluation—without a physician referral—in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and the US Virgin Islands? That means you can go straight to a PT to see what’s up—and in some states, you can start treatment right then and there. (Check out this guide to learn about direct access laws in your state.) Ready to find a PT in your area? Use the search bar above to get started.

Beyond rehabbing your bum back, your PT can build an exercise plan specifically for you, a CrossFit junkie. Pushing through your workouts isn’t going to solve any issues. If you need pointers on how to improve your warm-up, what exercises you can do to avoid future back pain, and how to address any current injuries, don’t wait; get PT now. Physical therapists are the premier experts on strength, movement, and healthy returns to CrossFit.

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