Wacky chest injury - please read and advise...
Ive been training hard for about 2 years now, been growing/gaining strength steadily. Back in august, I noticed I slight pain in my sternum when Id try to do dips. After a couple reps, it would go away so I didnt think anything of it.
About a month and a half ago - if Id try to do a dip, at the bottom of the movement when I would try to push back up, Id get a searing pain through my sternum. It wasnt an excruciating pain, more like a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1-10, but enough so that I knew something wasnt right.
Sometimes in the morning I hear a snap or crack in my upper chest when I move, right at the sternum-clavicle joint. No pain, though.
After that, I figured that Id better stop all chest training until it healed up. Three weeks without any chest movements seemed to fix it, but then my truck broke down. When I went to push it, I felt it 'go out' once again. Another two weeks off, I felt fine. Decided I try to work out light and did a couple sets of flat bench at 135x30, and some bodyweight dips. No pain at the time, two days later it and hurts again.
Obviously, I just need to stay off it until it feels 'fixed' and then stay off for another 2-3 weeks until its completely healed.
My question is, what the heck did I do to myself? From studying anatomy books and researching on the internet - it looks like anything from a stress fracture to a pulled tendon to a muscle tear.
I asked my doctor about it, and he didnt really have much to say, just that if the pain was associated with movement it was a muscle issue and not a skeletal issue. It does not hurt at all if I apply pressure directly to my sternum.
Well, any advice on the matter would really be appreciated.
The lowdown on the wacky chest injury
Ok folks, here's what I think the whole sternum soreness/popping this is, and how to fix it. At least, this is what Ive done so far, and Im almost to the point of being back to normal. (and ready to go kick some ass on chest day, which I havent had in over 2 months)
After talking things over with a good friend who is getting his MS in physical therepy, it really seems like what happend was a tear, or micro-tear in the tendon that attaches the pectorals to the sternum. Im assuming I injured this doing heavy DB bench pullovers, it was the day after doing that excercise when Id notice mild sternum discomfort. The dips with 4 45's probably didnt help either.
You muscle is at its weakest point when it is either fully contracted or fully extended. And when I was doing the bench pull over I was going all the way down, in an effort maximize muscle growth, etc,etc. Well, I didnt realize at the time, but when you're in that position and your pecs are fully stretched like that, most of the stress of pulling that weight back up out of the hole goes right to the tendon. Compound that with several reps per set and weeks of performing the exercise...
Same would go for heavy dips when you go all the way down.
Anyway, I didnt realize what I did so I just kept trying to work around it, and things just got worse. I had a really stressful month when I was having some major anxiety problems, I kept trying to work out and then things just fell apart. My rotator cuffs started to pop and crack, and my knees started to hurt as well. I was falling apart and it sucked!
SO - I did what I should have done from day 1. I took a week off. During this time I read all I could about how to recouperate from tendon/joint problems. The first thing you should do is RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression(if it makes sense to do so), and Elevation. So Id ice my sternum and inner pecs down 2 - 3 times a day for 20 minutes or so. And I just relaxed and slept as much as I could.
The following week, I started light low-impact cardio on one of those elliptical machines. This helped my knees out, and got blood moving throughout the body. A tendon injury sucks because, at first if you try to pump blood to your muscle, youll just add to the inflammation and irritation. You have to get it to the stage where the inflammation is reduced, and then slowly start working the injured area.
So for three weeks all I did was 20 minutes of cardio, rotator cuff exercises, concentration curls and calf presses 3 days a week. I started feeling a lot better. There were certain things Id do that would cause pain in that area (lifting my hands over my head and pressing my palms together. Or laying down and pressing my palms together with my arms down), and little by little the pain would go away.
I also kept an ice pack on my chest was I was lying in bed before going to sleep every night, and also right after working out. This is key. You're getting blood to that area to expedite healing, and then immediately reducing any inflammation with ice.
Also, stretching every day really helped out. I would stand in a doorway and stretch out my pecs, and then put my hands over my head against the top of the doorway and lean foward, slowly stretching out the muscles and tendons of the chest. This is the position I was in that caused the injury, and it was also this stretch that seemed to help the most.
So now, 7 weeks later, Im starting to bench with the bar and I can do pushups like I was before I was injured. I havent tried dips yet, although holding myself up on the dip rack dosent hurt like it did. Also, shrugging 200+ lbs isnt causing discomfort in my sternum area either. Although I was doing barbell shrugs with 400+ lbs before, Ill work my way back up slow.
I had to cut cals way back, but I really havent lost any weight. My strength is a little off, but I know it will come back fast. To summarize:
1.)ALWAYS do a light 10 minute cardio warmup before lifting. It gets blood moving through the body, which increases your pump and starts to warm up areas like the rotator cuffs, where blood flow is restricted.
2.)ALWAYS warm up your rotator cuffs before doing any upper body exercise. http://familydoctor.org/265.xml
3.)ALWAYS stretch adequately.
4.)When your strength goes up quick, dont jump right into the big weights right away, even if you can lift them fine. Your muscles might be able to move the weight, but remember the tissue connecting them to the bone needs time to catch up.
5.)When doing heavy weighted dips, don't go past paralell.
6.)When doing heavy DB pullovers, dont go ALL the way back. A little less than parallell with the bench is more than enough. Get a deep stretch with a lighter weight.
All this adivice seems like common sense but I can't tell you how on the ball I thought I was and Im sure many of us neglect proper warm up techniques. I was a 'no cardio while bulking' guy and that is a huge mistake. Your heart and other muscles NEED it. Ive read that you should always cool down with 10 minutes of light cardio after heavy lifting as well, because your blood pressure spikes when you move massive weights. Its good for the heart to push blood through dialated blood vessels after working out hard with heavy weights, it helps it 'come down' from the stress of lifting properly.
If anything, just remember this: It can take an injured tendon anywhere from 6 weeks to a year to fully heal. I can tell you I will take every step I can to prevent this from happening again! What an extreme pain in the ass its been!!
Ok well, Ive rambled on long enough. I hope somebody got something out of it:)