Can lifting weights cause back pain?
People often associate weightlifting with back pain due to the strain it can put on your body and spine. However, you may be surprised to know just how highly beneficial weightlifting can be as an exercise. Any form of strength training which involves regularly lifting weights helps to promote muscular strength, good bone health, health metabolism and cardiovascular fitness.
Back pain caused by lifting weights is caused mainly by poor posture or poor lifting technique. Deadlifting is a common way to cause low back pain as people with poor technique tend to either round the lower back or overextend it. This is common and can put the hips at a bad angle, causing strain on the spinal ligaments, muscles, intervertebral discs and facet joints. It is important to keep your shoulders stable and engage your pelvis so that you don’t overextend your back. When this happens, you may well experience some degree of pain in the lower back. This may vary in intensity, from dull aching to acute pain that makes it difficult to move.
Here are three common injuries seen from poor weighlifting technique in the low back.
Herniated disc; These are often triggered by poor deadlifting technique. This occurs when an intervertebral disc, which acts as a shock absorber for the spine, becomes damaged, torn or bulges. The soft, inner gel leaks out meaning that the spine is less cushioned and able to deal with load. The gel from the disc can irritate the local nerve root surrounding the spine.
Muscle and ligament tears; Tearing a muscle or straining a ligament can be very painful and also pose a problem in limiting your mobility. During the inflammation & healing process scar tissue can form. This can cause the muscle tissue to shorten. Having soft tissue massage, or instrument assisted massage can help to break down scar tissue and restore normal function.
Facet joint locks/irritations; Facet joints allow movement and provide stabilisation for the low back. When these joints are repetitively jammed together from poor lifting technique, over extension of the spine this can cause the joints to become inflamed and result in pain. When people complain of facet joint pain they describe it as being like a trapped nerve and have limited movement in the low back.
If you suffer with back pain from lifting weights it may be a good idea to seek professional advice from an osteopath, who can assess, diagnose and treat your problems. They will seek to reduce your pain and inflammation in the spine and give you some symptom relief. Osteopaths are known for a technique called joint manipulation or a high velocity low amplitude thrust (HVT).
This technique involves putting the joints in position to lock or build pressure within the joint. The thrust is performed to the joint, there is a rapid change which creates a small amount of space creating a “click” “pop” or a crack. This technique is designed to free joints in the spine or other areas of the body which in turn will reduce pain and temporary improved mobility. At the clinic we can give you advice on ways to prevent further damage and pain from occurring, including targeted rehabilitation exercises, posture advice, weightlifting technique advice and nutritional advice.
How can I prevent back pain from lifting weights?
There are a few ways to prepare your body for the strain and stress from weightlifting. These include:
- Warming up properly and mobilise your body before your session. Targeting the hips and thoracic spine is a good place to start.
- Making sure you have good posture to lift weights with. Seek advice from a personal trainer if you are unsure of technique.
- Follow a weightlifting program so that you alternate areas of your body that you train. A program example may be an upper/lower split or push/pull/legs split.
- Use less weight and focus on form.
- Address your core stabilising muscles