In weightlifting, it is very important for every lifter to protect their joints, especially the joints in the lumbar spine. You can’t do any exercise with lower back pain, even when it is the flat bench press. When your lower back hurts, your core can’t be stable so doing any compound movement is no different than killing yourself. That’s why today, I’ll talk about lower back pain from deadlifts- the most common type of pains-in weight-training, and how to prevent it.
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- What Is Lower Back Pain?
- What Are The Causes Of Lower Back Pain From Deadlifts?
- When Do You Know Whether It Is Lower Back Pain Or Not?
- How To Treat The Lower Back Pain
- How To Prevent It
What Is Lower Back Pain?
In general, lower back pain is a very common human experience as almost everyone has it in their life. Basically, the lower back starts below your ribcage and it is also called “lumbar region”.
Most acute lower back pain results from injury to the lower back muscles, ligaments, and even joints or discs. People often use the word “sprain” or “strain” to talk about this kind of pain. In details, a strain is resulted from the muscle fibers in your lower back getting torn or stretched overly. And a sprain occurs if ligaments, which hold your lumbar vertebrae in place, are ripped from the connection points.
In the worst-case scenario, the pain comes from a herniated disc. Trust me, it is extremely terrible when the pain extends from the butt to the leg. In this condition, you can’t do anything, even it’s just picking up a small object from the floor.
If you have lower back pain, no matter what the cause is, it is likely to be intense, especially when you don’t take care of it, whether intentionally or not. As a result, you will find it very annoying doing anything, even your daily activities.
However, in most cases, lower back pain usually gets better itself. But if it doesn’t, then you have to look for an effective treatment. Or else, I’m afraid that you can never lift again if it gets worse.
What Are The Causes Of Lower Back Pain From Deadlifts?
There are a lot people out there asking me the question: “Can deadlifts cause lower back pain?” or “Are deadlifts dangerous for my lower back?” Actually, there are so many questions like that but don’t let those misconceptions fool you.
However, let’s face it, the deadlift itself can’t cause lower back pain and if it were, then no one wouldn’t do it as an excellent compound core exercise. And in case you’re still wondering, it’s only dangerous for your lumbar spine if you do it incorrectly. Unfortunately, the deadlift is one of the most difficult compound exercises so it’s not surprising that many lifters do it improperly.
Here are some reasons why you have lower back pain after deadlifting:
1. You’re Not Keeping A Neutral Spine
Let’s get this straight- the first reason why you have lower back pain is that you do the exercise wrong. In reality, many lifters are likely to round their back why others usually try to arch the lower back too much by looking up too high. Additionally, they also look up too high and this will lead to a lot of stress on the ligaments in your lumbar spine, increasing your risk of pain.
2. You’re Deadlifting Too Heavy
This is actually the most common cause of lower back pain from deadlifts. You know why? This is because there are so many “ego lifters” out there trying to lift as heavy as they can. Some people even risk their safety when deadlifting without a belt, trying to prove their “incredible” strength. To be honest, it doesn’t make any sense. Is that really worth when you have to stop lifting for months because of the chronic lower back pain?
I agree that the deadlift or more specifically, the conventional deadlift allows us to lift very heavy. But it doesn’t mean you can torture yourself with the weights that are way heavier than what you can handle. When the weights are too heavy for you, your back tends to round as you’re struggling to lift the bar up. And trust me, if you keep lifting like that for a long time, it will be the easiest path to disc herniation.
3. Your Core Is Not Tight Enough Or Too Weak
Supposed that you do the exercise with a proper form, but your core is not strong enough, then you will also get lower back pain. Maybe the weights are not really heavy for you, but if your core can’t handle them, your back will end up rounded during the last reps.
4. Your Hips Are Too Low During Setup
When you start your hips too low, more of your back will come into play. And guess what happens next? Remember that this is not a lower back isolation exercise, it is a compound movement involving many muscle groups instead. Therefore, chances are your back will start to round as you’re trying to lift the bar off the ground. For instance, just imagine you have to lift 495 lbs using your back only, do you think you can make it?
When Do You Know Whether It Is Lower Back Pain Or Not?
As mentioned above, the deadlift is a compound movement working a lot of muscle groups at the same time. So, yes, your lower back is partially involved during this exercise and just partially, not fully. In fact, the deadlift primarily targets your glutes and hamstrings. That’s why it’s normal to feel your lower back ache or tighten up, but only about 1 or 3 days after you deadlift. This is called delayed-onset muscle soreness and it’s not something strange to any lifter.
If the uncomfortable feeling only lasts for 1 to 3 days since the last deadlift, it is just the delayed-onset muscle soreness. Otherwise, it is lower back pain and that’s when you know you have to look for some treatment immediately.
How To Treat The Lower Back Pain
Don’t worry too much, you’re alone. Actually, there are a lot of lifters who have experienced the disorder at least once in their whole life. Therefore, if you have it, don’t panic because there are different ways to treat the pain. Here are my 7 tips which may help you get rid of lower back pain from deadlifts quickly:
1. Give Your Back A Break
Yes, this is the simplest thing you can do about the pain. You may hate me but resting for a few days until you can walk, bend and twist as normal. You should not go to the gym or forget the weights for some days. However, if you can’t help going to the gym, then doing isolation exercises which don’t involve the back is fine.
2. Foam Roll Your Back
If the pain is not serious, you can completely treat it on your own. Just try to get used to a foam roller. Slowly apply pressure to each side of your lower back and roll back and forth for about 2 minutes and then switch sides. Repeat that for 15-30 minutes at home every day or before you start your workout.
3. Hot/cold Therapy
Just don’t underestimate the effectiveness of simply applying hot/cold packs to in reducing the lower back and promoting the healing process.
This method will help stimulate your blood flow, bringing healing nutrients to the painful area. This way, it can inhibit the pain messages sent to your brain, thus, reducing the pain quickly.
You can use heat in many different ways. For example, you can use a heating pad, heat wrap, take a hot shower, soak in a hot tub, and so on. However, in my experience, it’s best to find one that works most efficiently for you.
Honestly, this method is not always comfortable to apply to our body, but the momentary discomfort is totally outweighed by the anti-inflammatory benefits outweigh. Specifically, cold can help reduce inflammation that is usually a cause of the lower back pain. It works as a local anesthetic and it keeps your nerves from spasming and causing pain as it slows down nerve impulses.
Just ice the affected area consistently with an ice pack. Keep doing that for a few days and so can see a difference.
4. Hamstring Stretching
This may sound strange to you but a contributor to lower back pain which is often overlooked is tight hamstrings. If your hamstrings muscles are too tight, your lower back as well as sacroiliac joints will be overly stressed. That’s why stretching the area should be done at least twice a day, and especially before every workout.
5. Back Brace
A back brace can be used as it can reduce pain and provide great comfort. More importantly, it helps you prevent further injury which is is likely to occur if you’re not careful. Using an inelastic corset-style brace daily can help you speed up healing process.
6. Anti-inflammatory Diet
Make sure you’re eating the most anti-inflammatory diet on a daily basis including grains, fish oil and bone health supplements if needed.
7. Acupuncture Or Massage
Give it a try if you haven’t done this before. Believe me, acupuncture or massage can provide even more relief than any painkiller without side effects. So, in case you are looking for a new treatment which is beneficial and relaxing, just go see a good acupuncturist or massage therapist.
Keep in mind that if the pain is severe or gets worse, then just don’t hesitate to consult a doctor immediately. A lot of people out there are so neglectful of their lower back pain doing nothing until it’s too late. Tell me, do you want to stop lifting forever?
How To Prevent It
Always remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, particularly when it comes to lumbar spine issues. What is your training all about? Yes, building muscle, losing fat but more importantly, it’s about the longevity, right? It’s time to stop injuring yourself and turning the deadlift into a lower back destroyer. The following tips will help you train smarter and prevent pain in this movement:
1. Correct Your Deadlift Form
As mentioned above, it’s not easy for any lifter to do a perfect deadlift. In fact, it may take beginners months and even years to master the exercise. Honestly, it took me 3 years to figure out that I was not performing the deadlift correctly, so how about you?
When it comes to form or technique in the deadlift, there are so many things to remember but I’m going into details. Instead, I just give you a short list of important things you need to know to prevent lower back pain from deadlifts:
- Keep your core nice and tight
- Keep your chest up and retract your shoulder
- Keep your head neutral so that it forms a straight line with your torso
- Keep your lower back naturally arched instead of excessively arching or rounding it
- Do not let your hips raise first or straighten your legs too soon
In the past, even though I knew how to deadlift with a proper form, my form still broke down on the last reps. Keep mind that it takes time to master the exercise, it’s not 1 or 2 days, it may be months or even years. Therefore, if you’re a serious lifter, just keep practicing more and more until you master the technique.
2. Lighten the load
Well, if you’re confident about your form then lightening the weight to make sure you can keep that form throughout the movement. I know, a lot of lifters out there are very strong and they only care about lifting as heavy as possible just to prove their strength. Besides, you guys just practice proper form for the first few sets. And once the weights get heavier, your form breaks down.
In brief, do not sacrifice form for weight. Instead, leave your ego at the door, lighten the load a little bit. And make sure you have the proper deadlift form for every rep of every set.
3. Use a Weight-lifting Belt
I believe that this item is very similar to almost every lifter all over the world. The reason why it is commonly used is that it provides great support to your core, especially the lower back. Hence, Olympic lifters, bodybuilders and even people with general fitness purposes use belts to protect their back. Learn how to use it right here