Is a popping sound in my back when working out related to an injury?

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Question:

I’m not sure if this is even the right place to ask, but it’s worth a shot. Five days ago I went for a 1RM to evaluate my strength after being in and out of the gym, during my last squat (235lbs) I felt a hard pop out of my middle back (Maybe T11/T12/Or lower), while coming up about mid-way of the squat. Once that happened the air in my chest immediately felt like it was thrown out. After racking the bar, I went into a child’s pose, which relieved some discomfort.

Once the pain (2/3 out of 10; I have a pretty high pain tolerance) had left, I kept my cool and started to listen to my body to see where the pain might occur. From doing back extensions with body weight and 10lbs plate on the GHR in a slow tempo trying to feel out my back, I noticed slight pinning pain at an occasion but not in every rep. I did some yoga afterwards trying to access more points of pain if they were any. I didn’t feel any more pain after that but the normal rush of a “good pump”, which might helped or worsened the situation?

After getting an appointment with a Doctor the same day, I explained my situation and his “guess” was that a normal “pop” occurred due to some pressure build up in my spine. X-Ray was done soon after of the middle of my back and that was is it. He noted that if there was any pain that would occur after a week to contact him, and they would set me up with a PT. Today (Fourth to five day) I felt slight pain (3/3.5 out of 10) in that area again in which it was a downward pain? I’m not sure how to describe it thoroughly enough, my apologies. I just wanted to get a second opinion about it to see what I should think and if I should be worried. As I’m in my early twenties and would like to have a healthy spine throughout my life. As of right now I’m not as active as I used to be 8-12 months ago. I worked two jobs, traveled, trained, and studied for a degree so usually a pretty active lifestyle to basically none for the past 5-6 months. I have been incorporating the gym more recently but wasn’t going to take it “too far”. Thank you in advance and I will be looking forward to your reply!

Answer:

Thank you for your question. Without doing an examination of your mid-back we are unable to provide specific information regarding your symptoms. However, we can give general recommendations regarding mid-back discomfort in the scenario described.

A “popping” sound in the middle back can be normal and is not always indicative of an injury. Often sounds can occur as joints move and/or as other soft tissue structures move past each other or over a joint. If the x-ray taken during the doctor visit was clear and no symptoms such as weakness, numbness/tingling or loss of sensation are present, there is little reason for worry. Maintaining a healthy spine throughout the lifespan is a great goal.

In general, continuing to participate in pain-free light activity including walking, cycling, and stretching can help facilitate recovery from a mild injury. If a tissue has been strained, in many cases, the symptoms will resolve with light activity alone. In other cases, if symptoms persist, treatment by a Physical Therapist can help to speed recovery.

If symptoms persist, we suggest following up with your doctor and getting an evaluation by a Physical Therapist to get specific recommendations and treatment to return to normal activity. Physical therapy may include exercises for mobility, strength, and increasing load tolerance with good movement patterns as well as creating a plan to assist in reaching specific goals.

Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

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