The Connection Between Lower Back Pain and Weightlifting

Over 250 million Americans experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Of these millions of low back pain sufferers, many experience pain as a result of lifting improperly. While there’s no question about the benefits of physical activity and lifting weights, making certain to use proper form is paramount to avoiding injury. Of course, one can expect some soreness following a particularly difficult training session, but, if the pain is severe or doesn’t subside after a few days, it may indicate a more serious issue.

Low Back Pain Symptoms

Placing muscles under tension is likely to cause some residual soreness. This may present in the form of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) or acute muscle cramps. When the low back muscles are placed under load, micro-tearing occurs. These tiny tears must heal to build new tissue, resulting in pain and soreness following a lifting session. However, if the pain is severe or debilitating, it may be an indication of muscle or ligament strain or a pulled muscle.

If spinal weakness or extreme pain occurs, this may indicate a serious problem such as a bulging disk. We recommended that you seek the attention of a medical professional if you notice such symptoms.

Causes of Low Back Pain

One can attribute many episodes of lower back pain to poor lifting form. During all movements, it is essential to keep the entire spine in a neutral position. This means keeping the lower back straight and aligned with the head and neck. Arching or rounding the back may place significant stress on the spine and surrounding muscles. When performing heavy, compound movements, this may result in pulled muscles, strains, and even tears or bulging disks.

Lower Back Pain Relief

Over-the-counter pain medications may provide temporary relief from symptoms of low back pain. While these may cause the pain to subside, it is essential to fix the issue at its root. Allowing sore or injured muscles to rest for one to two days is vital for muscle recovery. While doing so may be difficult, it may prevent further injury from occurring.

Stretching may also alleviate pain caused by tight muscles, while ice therapy may reduce inflammation and swelling in the area. If the pain is persistent, professional attention from a physical therapist may be in order.

Prevent Low Back Pain

Lifting weights doesn’t have to result in debilitating pain. Using proper form and moderate weights may prevent the issue from occurring altogether. Likewise, many exercise machines offer substantial benefits, while keeping the spine in a neutral position. For those who have difficulty maintaining proper form while lifting free weights, machines are an excellent alternative.

It is important to engage the glutes and legs when lifting free weights, not just the lower back. The gluteal muscles, along with the hamstrings and quadriceps, are the largest muscles in the body. Engaging these muscles in lower-body lifts will significantly reduce lower back strain. It is also important to contract the abdominal muscles during every repetition. These muscles provide support for the back and considerably reduce the chance of injury when appropriately contracted. Additionally, some individuals may consider using a weight belt to provide extra support and stability.

Without proper care, back pain can quickly take control of your life. It’s important to listen to your body and take the appropriate actions to prevent your pain from intensifying. If your pain doesn’t seem to be subsiding days — even weeks — after an intense lifting session, reach out to the pain experts at Marc Cohen Spine Institute. We specialize in spinal services and procedures that can alleviate chronic back pain. Contact us to schedule an appointment at one of our New Jersey locations.