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So I hurt my back… a “Side Strain”

this is how I feel

Last Tuesday night I injured my back at practice. Of course, it happened doing something I’ve done many, many times. I’ve had minor muscle strains and sprains at practice before, and I usually just keep going.

But this time I couldn’t. I even had to stay home from work the next day because I could barely roll out of bed.

Less than two weeks away from a competition (which is a big deal in this part of Canada – there are barely any b-boy battles here), plus a presentation I’m doing on injury prevention! Hah! There’s never a good time, only “less bad” – and this is definitely a “more bad” time for me.

But perhaps this will end up being a good thing. I’ve read and written so much about the science of pain (particularly low back pain). I suppose it’s now time to actually experience it first hand.

Here’s how its going so far, plus some research I’ve done on this particular injury.

How it happened:

Last Tuesday night I was practicing after a particularly tiring day at work – possible contributing factor? I don’t know, maybe.

Already warmed up, I was starting to go over some moves and combos. One such combo was a funny transition to a backspin (the last move I do on this video). After doing it reasonable well two times in a row, I decided to put more power into it. During the kick of my right leg, (an inside-out crescent kick with some abdominal flexing and twisting), I felt a slight twinge of pain in my right lower back.


At first, I tried to walk it off, rubbing my back. This kind of thing has happened countless times all over my body. No big deal. But when I tried to do more dancing – I couldn’t. The pain started to get worse.

Damn it! I need to practice!

First insight: when you’re actually in pain, all recommendations that you are fully aware of (and would give to others) go completely out the window.

I decided to wait a little longer. I sat on the floor and did some stretching – my groin, hamstrings, etc. I would have done this anyway before practicing harder stuff. But then I started to stretch my waist by lying flat and twisting my knees to the side. It was stiffer than usual. And when untwisting (returning to neutral) – the pain was intense.


After trying a few more moves that caused intolerable amounts of pain, I decided I should actually stop. With http://www.bboyscience.com/wp-admin/post-new.php#the competition coming up, this was rather upsetting. I spend the rest of the night very angry.


You knew this was coming.

The pain wrapped around my right side in a “C” shape, close to my lower ribs, and didn’t spread much further than the size of my palm. There was nothing in the middle of my back, and I could flex and extend my lower back fine. Twisting and side-bending was what caused pain, particularly against gravity / resistance or with speed. Coughing or sneezing feels like I’m being stabbed in the ribs.

Definitely a muscle strain – which isn’t so bad as far as back injuries go.

Second Insight: high risk of confirmation bias when diagnosing yourself. I want it to be “just a strain”, so perhaps those are the symptoms I’m noticing the most?

I started to Wikipedia different lower back and abdominal muscles. Here’s where it hurts:

The internal abdominal obliques are in the second layer of abdominal wall.

My reasoning led me to start diving into Pubmed, and here’s what I found:

It looks like I have a “side strain” – an uncommon abdominal wall injury. 1, 2, 3, 4

  • Results in a tear of the internal oblique abdominals at their attachment to the lower four ribs. That explains the location of the pain.
  • Caused by a sudden, eccentric, unbalanced trunk rotation. That’s pretty much exactly what I did – although my technique must have been a bit off.
  • Treatment is conservative and non-operative, involving sport specific rehabilitation. Great! That’s easy enough. I can do that.

An interesting injury – could definitely be worse. Funny that it turned out to be a side strain when it hurt the most in my back at first. That’s probably an important lesson about back pain.

However, strains usually take a few weeks to subside before you can “go all out” again… and I have a week and a half before the competition – not to mention all the practice time I’m going to miss.

I love science but THIS SUCKS.

How things are going so far:

Stubbornly, I only took one day off work and exercise (Wednesday). I felt ready on Thursday, although it still hurt a lot. Most guidelines for injury and pain recommend early movement, so I thought what better way than to go to work? Of course, I avoided any strenuous work, and asked for help wherever possible.

I’ve noticed that Ibuprofen actually does a good job of decreasing the pain, although I am trying to minimize how much I take. I’m also trying to eat really well.

I went to practice after work on Thursday, and just moved extremely slowly, and experimented. I know I should have rested – but I couldn’t just sit at home and do nothing! Yes, most everything caused pain. But there were some things I could get away with, and as I warmed up, it actually started to feel better.

I did the same thing Friday after work. It felt even better, and I could move a little faster, and get into positions that I couldn’t attempt the day before.

Yesterday I stayed in and relaxed. It was nice.

It’s now Sunday. The pain is now centered at the front of my right side (at the ribs), and I barely feel it in my back anymore. I took one ibuprofen early this morning.

Overall, it’s definitely not a severe strain. If it wasn’t for this competition, I would have just taken a week off… but I just can’t!

Third Insight: the pressure of competition and (my self perceived) expectations of others are causing me to behave much less responsibly that I normally would.

The Plan:

Tonight I have practice, and I’m going to try some “riskier” movements. It’s been over three days, and hopefully a decent scar has formed (although it probably isn’t very strong yet). I plan to warm up very carefully, and stretch before doing anything difficult. I’m also going to take an ibuprofen about 30 minutes before I go. I’m going to try my more powerful movements, but as slowly as possible and with as much care and emphasis on technique as possible. If it hurts, I’ll “downgrade” my practice to what I did Friday.Third Insight: the pressure of competition and (my self perceived) expectations of others are causing me to behave much less responsibly that I normally would.

I’ll keep you all posted about how it goes.

Wish me luck!

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    16 Responses to So I hurt my back… a “Side Strain”

    1. Patrick says:

      This blows man, I wish you a safe competition. From my experience of pain in general muscles need REST, really is the only solution. As you’ve mentioned in one of your articles the first phase in the beginning 2-3 days your body get rid of the dead ‘meat'(necro-something haha) and start stitching back the small ruptures(at least that’s how I portray it), but this still isn’t good enough to attempt going back all-in to your regular exercises. I was especially afraid of the fact that you said muscles don’t regenerate like bones so they can get more prone to ripping again so I’m taking the right steps to give my body the best context for a solid recovery.

      At least you are going back a little slower, I avoid any pain-killer medication though, my good diet is all I need :), I really think that bboying is one of those rare disciplines where when you miss out on practices you start feeling really out of the loop. I mean I’ve been in a soccer team in the past and missing a practice didn’t feel like a big deal.

      It’s kind of funny though, like you know this subject so well, seems to happen to even the best of us!

      Have a good recovery.

      • Tony Ingram says:

        Thanks for the comment Patrick! You’re right, it can happen to anyone, and no matter how much you know or how much you prepare, you can’t prevent every injury. That’s why I am being so open about all of this. I don’t want to be try to appear a bullet proof guru with all the answers. I’m also admitting to behaving badly! I really should be resting!

        I’m approaching it as carefully as possible. Check out my newest post, I actually did imagery tonight, and I will do it every day till the competition. I’m gonna try practicing again tomorrow.

        Thanks again and peace!

        • Fonz says:

          What’s good? I like BBOY styles, my favorite is Lilou.I have a muscle strain now, and it’s killing me, and its been four weeks now since it happen.My strain is at the same location as yours. It doesn’t hurt at all, but when I go to bend, forget about it . Can’t tie my shoe, sometimes I can’t even touch my knees. I had a xray, but that shit don’t tell you how serious your muscle strain is.The reason I believe that there’s no pain is, I’m stretching twice a day, heat your body first (warm bath), and I’m doing a light workout.But still can’t bend over, and it sucks!

    2. bboy chemi says:

      GOOD LUCK doctor bboy;)

    3. Yu says:

      this is an aspect where i feel like my own ‘Laboratory rat’, and I like it, it’s challenging.

      I’ve been dealing with a neck ache for like 2 months now, because of a sliped headspin (long neck doesnt help for the stability you need to headspin). the good thing is that I can train many other different things while you rest the head and neck work.

      Defenetly the rest is important but an active rest is what we want.

      big ups to our rehab!

      • Tony Ingram says:

        Hey Yu,

        I feel you on the neck pain – I get it myself from doing headspins and halos. I am planning on making a post soon with some exercises for strengthening the neck – stay tuned! In the meantime, of course train everything else! :D


    4. wil says:

      what are some of the rehab exercises you did? This happened to me a few days ago. It also happened in the spring but not as bad and I didnt have it diagnosed. My pain is strong in both the back near the pelvis and towards the front lower as well as lower ribs.

    5. Dragon Izumi says:

      I probably got the same thing. I was feeling tired but at practice I started off with flares (clockwise) and felt a sharp pain in the left side. Thought if I warm up and stretch it out Id be good to go. I did a power combo: windmill> swipes> 2000> swipes> flare. That set it off. Pain just came so sharp I couldnt move. At home I couldnt even rollover without hurting. Its been three days. Ive been taking potassium with my whey. Pain decreased but it hurts like a bitch when I sneeze. Hopefully the pain keeps going down in the next few days so I can get back I to practice.

    6. Travis Chi says:

      I looked this pain up after it happened to me. This is the 2nd day, I definitely can still feel it. It happened due to a bad decision to whip out some flares to show my friends. The pain appeared in my left side immediately. I could barely move, walking was pretty tough. Today though it has subsided quite a bit. I plan on icing, heating, pilling. Hopefully I’m good to go tonight, because i’m battling. Lol

    7. AZTully says:

      Glad I found this post and hoping that you can share how you’re doing now. I’m a very active 50 year old and often pretend that I’m 20. I was on a recent hike taking photographs and slipped on a boulder and had a quick decision to either damage my camera or sacrifce my body. I twisted sharply to keep my camera from being damaged and felt a sharp pain on my side/back. I’ve self diagnosed myself as having a torn internal oblique. I sneezed later that day which caused a lot of pain (more than the initial).

      I rested for a day- did TRX workout on 2nd day and hot yoga today. It’s still annoying the crap out of me. IBUprofin works well but don’t want to be on this for 6 weeks.

      What was your experience on how much rest was needed? Did you exercise when there was discomfort?

    8. Rahyno says:

      Please i need a good guide and tips on how to windmill to flare.i’ve been working on it for over 4 months now

    9. william says:

      am also working on the windmill n am doin quite well

    10. Jacob stanziole says:

      I’m an amateur bodybuilder and I did this a month before my last competition. I hurt myself doing pullups because I slightly favor my right side. This injury flat out sucks, dude. I remember moments where I felt so broken because that whole prep, I was working on the width of my lats and I had to stop doing pullups for about 3 weeks because the pain was absolutely unbearable. I would try one set every week and each time, it was a huge disappointment. I prayed and prayed and begged that God would just fix me. I stuck to my diet and really developed the thickness of my back doing barbell rows and all the other back exercises that didn’t involve pullover motions. on that last week, dude, I went ham on pullups and lat pull down. my back hasn’t looked as good as it did that week ever and I feel I placed well because of the conditioning in my back. sometimes, even injuries can be a blessing. if I didn’t injure my external oblique, I wouldn’t have done so many rows and developeda sstrong thick back. All I’m saying is it ain’t over. Those who humble themselves will be exalted and sometimes you gotta be humbled to see the big picture. I admire your passion for your sport and your dream. Know that you’re not alone and in times like these, you have an awesome God to call on, bro. keep your head up and God bless.

    11. Cindy says:

      hi I been having the same problem with my left side when I turn my rib cage hurts I’m little over weight I feel pressure I went Er they say I’m having spasm and from straining it like a sharp pain what can I do for it

    12. Kelli Chastain says:

      Did it hurt sometimes when you would take a deep breath?

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