I am a climber (currently doing mostly bouldering - short, powerful and very dynamic climbs) and I recently have issues with sore back muscles - I can barely move the next day after exercises and the following few days. What can I do about it other than making sure I warm up properly and stretch? Should I try any vitamins or other supplements?
There are a couple sources of pain, particularly for the lower back. These are:
- Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
- Or injury--can be very small injury or a very bad injury
DOMS is characterized by a dull soreness that can range from a general feeling of being "used" to a more intense feeling of soreness inside the muscle. Usually, after the same type of stress repeated regularly (such as every other day), the body gets used to the stress and returns to a state of normal rather quickly. Eventually the pain can even disappear.
Injuries on the other hand can range from very small tears (a normal part of getting stronger) which can cause pain for a couple days. The more severe the injury the more severe the pain. Injuries can be caused by a lack of flexibility, a lack of core strength (in the case of the back), and poor technique.
Ironically, the long term solution is essentially the same in both cases. The only difference is that you have to let an injury heal first.
- Pay attention to your technique. Your back likes to be supported by your abs and back muscles (core) so that the lumbar position is straight. Excessive rounding or arching is causing flexion on the spine that it is not designed for. Get in close and keep the back straight.
- Improve your flexibility. You'll have to find some stretches to do after the workout. These stretches perform two functions: they improve your range of motion so you can have better technique, and they provide a nice cool down so that the muscles will be less sore.
- Improve your core strength. The key here is to incorporate some assistance exercises during the week that will help you when you do your bouldering. You'll probably need some grip exercises in addition, but kettlebell routines, deadlifts, and squats will all help strengthen your core. You have core muscles in your abs, your back and your sides, and they all contribute to the bouldering.
- Use a foam roller to work your soft tissue. You don't foam roll your lower back or neck, but you do every part of your legs (top, bottom, inside, outside), the upper back, and your sides.
After your bouldering exercises, I recommend a cool-down period. In this cool-down you'll do the stretching you need to improve your range of motion, but don't over-stretch (meaning don't push past the pain). The very next day when you can barely move, try to get your blood flowing with a simple warmup. You'll probably have to go slowly, but it is worth it. Then foam roll and do more stretching.
In essence you can stretch daily, and the more you limber up, and foam roll the soft tissues, the better you will feel and the quicker you will recover. If your bouldering activities are all on the weekend, you should have a couple days for building core strength in between during the week. Even if you don't have access to barbells, kettle bells, or anything like that, good body weight exercises will help you improve your core strength.