If we think of a person doing an overexertion we imagine someone carrying a closet or running a marathon. Very often I have patients who come with a worsening of their pain and are surprised when I tell them that they have made an overexertion. “But if I just did nothing” or “if I just went to buy the newspaper” could be some of the comments. The reality is that you can do an overexertion with small daily acts because it does not depend on how big the effort; It all depends on the balance between muscle capacity and the effort being asked.
When suffering from a lumbar or cervical injury a well-known phenomenon occurs, the muscles lose strength. The body reacts well to the injury. The muscles surrounding the affected joints have diminished their capacity for strength and endurance. Having weaker muscles makes us more fragile in the face of stress. This loss of strength is the factor that most delays the recovery after an injury. This problem is even greater after surgery because the surgical aggression deteriorates the muscles more.
An overexertion can be done in two ways:
– Overexertion when exerting an effort above the capacities of our muscles.
This concept we all understand. If I am not accustomed to running and tomorrow I run a marathon, it is clear that my muscles will not hold and I surely do not reach the goal healthy. Likewise, if I want to raise my car with my hands, nothing good will happen if I get it.
Applied to our backs, we have to know what our abilities are in each moment. If we leave an injury we have to adjust our daily activities and exercise. If we practice sports, when we reincorporate ourselves we must lower the intensity of training. After suffering an injury or surgery it is very difficult to know what the capacity of our muscles at that time. That is why we must start with small efforts (both in our daily life and during training) and increase them progressively with the passage of days and weeks.
– Overexertion when exerting with an exhausted musculature
Let’s suppose that on a particular day you have been walking a lot. You come to your house, you drop your keys to the ground and when you crouch down you notice a creak and you stay hooked in that position with intense pain and without being able to stretch. Bending down to pick up the keys is an overexertion? It could be if our muscles were very tired and they did not have the strength to hold our vertebrae during this gesture.
This problem of accumulation of effort we have to be very present when training the back. Imagine that we are recovering from a lumbar injury by training in a gym. If one day we had to do many errands, waiting standing in line, taking the car from side to side, maybe it is not the day to train. This is usually not particularly problematic if we train in safe postures. On the contrary it usually gives more problems, I explain. If tomorrow I have to have a day as busy as the one we have discussed, today should not do a strong training. If I train hard and exhaust the muscles, it is likely that tomorrow they are tired and we can resent so much activity. This must be taken into account.
Many times when leaving a workout we find ourselves better, with less pain. This happens because our muscles have a greater tone and, by holding us more, it alleviates the pain. We should not make the mistake of thinking that by having less pain we can do things that we did not do before. That day, even though we are feeling better, our muscles have worked hard and we have to do lighter tasks for the rest of the day.
In summary, a seemingly simple task can become overexertion if our muscles have lost capacities due to an injury or if they are tired of previous efforts. Overexertion can lead to injury or worsen symptoms when we are recovering from one. The concept is very clear although applying it sometimes is not so simple.