Friday, November 5, 2010

Pull-ups and Butterfly are a pain in the neck

Contrary to the title of this post, I don't mind pull-ups and I like swimming the butterfly stroke. However, the combination of these this week caused me some significant whiplash-like neck pain. On Tuesday evening I was doing a fairly standard workout at home. My workout started with the bench press (2 sets of 15 reps @ 95 pounds), then I strengthened my rotator cuff with elastic band stretches, I did 15 reps each of three different types of dumbbell flys, I followed that with three sets of 15 biceps curls @17.5 pounds, and ended with two sets of 20 lateral raises @10 pounds. Together, these weightlifting exercises were working the muscles of my shoulders, arms, and chest (deltoid, supraspinatus, pectoralis, biceps), but not the back muscles to any large degree. Only the lateral raises work the trapezius, and the amount of weight I was lifting was small, as suggested by Delavier (2006). I followed the weight-lifting with 47 abdominal crunches and 12 leg lifts to strengthen the core. Lastly, I did two pull-ups on my door-frame pull-up bar.

I have hurt myself on the pull-up bar before, so I try to be careful. The problem with the door-frame model is that it is too low and my feet touch the floor. As a consequence, I must bend my knees as I do the pull-ups. This causes my body to sway forward and backward as I do each pull-up, and this extra motion apparently has the potential to do me harm. I find that doing pull-ups on a bar mounted to the wall at the side of my workplace pool is much easier for me to do (in fact, I can do 6 in a row instead of 3 at home), and I maintain good posture. But Tuesday night I was using the door frame bar at home. As I swung forward gripping the bar, much of my biceps motion was propelling me forward rather than up over the bar, so to reach the bar I had to bend my head backward, and that is when I felt the mild pain of a muscle pull. No big deal; I was finished anyway, but I did pop some ibuprofen and throw on an ice pack to prevent the extra swelling in that region that in the past has caused significant disability (wryneck). I have injured that spot in my neck before. I am fairly sure there is a weakened tendon deep at the back of my neck that attaches some muscle to my cervical vertebrae. I injure it about once a year by doing mundane and normal activities like doing laundry or showering.

I went to bed and woke up almost as good as new. I could still feel a tightness in the area but it did not impact my range of motion. Wednesday is my swim lesson day, so I went to the lesson with a little concern that swimming would cause me pain, but it didn't. At least my freestyle warm-up was fine. Then it came time for my coach and I to work on butterfly. I've been working on this stroke for the last couple months, and I find it great fun...and great work, too.

The butterfly stroke requires the spine and body to generate wave-like undulations that start with a dolphin kick and end with the head thrusting out of the water before surging down under the surface, only to reappear with the next kick. My coach wants me to imagine myself a dolphin, but I tend to think of myself as a small bird bounding through the air. Certainly the name butterfly is NOT the best name for this stroke!

At any rate, after 500 yards of freestyle and 175 yards of butterfly, my neck tendon finally gave out and I had to tell my coach that I was injured and couldn't do any more butterfly. I probably should have left the pool at that point to take more ibuprofen and apply ice, but well, I love swimming so much, and I had only swam for 30 minutes at that point, so we moved on to more freestyle drills totalling another 500 yards.

Needless to say, on Thursday my neck was stiff and I was distracted by the pain all day. Now Friday, I am on the mend and my neck should be fully healed by tomorrow. Until I hurt it again doing something stupid!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you should be a little more careful! I've never pulled a muscle--but now that I've said something, I bet I'll pull a muscle next time I'm at the gym lol

    Keep up the good work!