Physiotherapy for Back Pain Articles
Tips on Dealing with Lower Back Pain During Squats

Tips on Dealing with Lower Back Pain During Squats

Lower back pain can be a debilitating issue, especially for those who regularly engage in physical activities such as squats. A cross-sectional study in Singapore (you may read more about it here) demonstrated the negative effects of lower back pain, which include decreased physical function, limitations in performing daily tasks and social activities, heightened depressive symptoms, and an overall lower quality of life.

A significant proportion of adults in Singapore, up to 80%, suffer from lower back pain. So, if you've experienced lower back pain when squatting, it's important to understand the possible causes and how to remedy the situation.

In this article, we aim to delve into the different elements that may lead to lower back pain while performing squats. It will also present practical and efficient remedies to alleviate the discomfort and enhance your squatting experience.

Possible Causes of Lower Back Pain from Squats

The reasons why you experience low back pain from doing squats are diverse, ranging from your anatomy to your form to previous injuries inflicted on your back. Here are some of the most common causes of why people experience pain from squats:

Poor Squat Technique

One of the primary reasons for lower back pain during squats is poor squatting technique. When performing a squat, it is crucial to maintain proper form to avoid placing excessive strain on the lower back. Common mistakes include rounding the back, leaning too far forward, or failing to engage the core muscles properly. These errors can lead to overloading the spine and result in lower back pain.

Using Too Much Weight

Another common mistake that can cause lower back pain during squats is using excessive weight. When you attempt to squat with a weight that is too heavy for your current strength level, your lower back may compensate for the lack of stability, leading to strain and discomfort.

Tight Hip Flexors

Tight hip flexor muscles can also contribute to lower back pain during squats. When these muscles are tight, they can pull on the pelvis, causing an anterior pelvic tilt and placing increased stress on the lower back. They could also cause poor hip mobility.

Incorporating regular stretching exercises to lengthen the hip flexors can help alleviate this issue. Simple stretches such as lunges and kneeling hip flexor stretches can be performed before and after squatting to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of lower back pain.

Weak Core Muscles

Having poor core strength can be a significant factor in experiencing lower back pain during squats. The core muscles, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles, play a crucial role in maintaining stability and supporting the spine during squatting movements. If these muscles are weak, the lower back may bear the brunt of the load, leading to pain and discomfort.

Limited Ankle Mobility

Insufficient ankle mobility can also contribute to lower back pain during squats. When the ankles lack the necessary range of motion, compensatory movements occur in other joints, such as the knees and lower back. These compensations can lead to improper squat mechanics and increased stress on the lower back.

Insufficient Warm-Up Exercises

Failing to adequately warm up before performing squats can increase the risk of lower back pain. Cold muscles and joints are more prone to injury and can lead to discomfort during exercise. Prior to squats, it is essential to incorporate dynamic warm-up exercises that target the muscles and joints involved in the squatting motion.

Lower Back Injury

In some cases, lower back pain during squats may be a result of a previous lower back injury. If you have a history of back problems or have experienced trauma to your lower back, it is important to approach squatting with caution.

Remedies and Treatments for Lower Back Pain

If you experience lower back pain after squats, some several remedies and treatments can help alleviate the discomfort and promote recovery. It is important to note that these suggestions should not replace professional medical advice, and if the pain persists or worsens, consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended.

Over-the-counter Pain Medications

Over-the-counter pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help reduce inflammation and alleviate lower back pain temporarily. These medications can be useful for managing acute pain, but it is essential to follow the recommended dosage and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying medical conditions or are currently taking other medications.

Cold and Heat Therapies

Applying cold and heat therapies can provide relief for lower back pain. In the initial stages of pain, applying an ice pack to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and numb the area. After the acute phase, heat therapy, such as a warm compress or a hot water bottle, can help relax the muscles and promote blood flow to the area, aiding in the healing process. It's important to use caution when applying heat or cold therapy and avoid direct contact with the skin to prevent burns or frostbite.

Physical Activity

Engaging in low-impact physical activities, such as walking or swimming, can help alleviate lower back pain. These activities promote blood flow, improve flexibility, and strengthen the muscles surrounding the lower back, aiding in the recovery process. It's important to start gradually and listen to your body's signals to avoid exacerbating the pain or causing further injury. If the pain persists or worsens during physical activity, it is advisable to seek medical attention.

Spinal Manipulation

Spinal manipulation, performed by chiropractors or osteopathic physicians, can help relieve lower back pain caused by misalignments or joint restrictions. This hands-on technique involves applying controlled force to the spine to restore mobility and alleviate pain. It's essential to consult with a qualified practitioner and ensure that spinal manipulation is appropriate for your specific condition before undergoing any treatment.

Therapeutic Massage

Therapeutic massage can provide relief for lower back pain by promoting relaxation, improving blood flow, and reducing muscle tension. A skilled massage therapist can target the affected muscles and apply techniques that help release tightness and promote healing. It's important to communicate your symptoms and concerns to the therapist and choose a qualified practitioner experienced in treating lower back pain.


Working with a physiotherapist such as the highly experienced and qualified ones at Phoenix Rehab can be beneficial for addressing lower back pain and preventing future occurrences.

A physiotherapist can assess your movement patterns, identify any imbalances or weaknesses, and design personalised physiotherapy for back pain to target specific areas of concern. They can also provide hands-on treatments, such as manual therapy or electrical stimulation, to alleviate pain and promote healing.

When to See a Medical Professional for Lower Back Pain

While many cases of lower back pain can be managed with self-care measures, there are instances where medical attention is necessary. It is important to seek medical advice if:

The pain is severe, persistent, or worsening

The pain radiates down the leg or causes numbness or weakness in the leg

The pain is accompanied by bladder or bowel dysfunction

The pain is the result of a previous injury

The pain is accompanied by fever, unexplained weight loss, or other systemic symptoms

A healthcare professional can evaluate your symptoms, perform necessary tests or imaging, and provide appropriate treatment or referral to a specialist if needed.

Tips on Preventing Back Pain During Squats

Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding lower back pain during squats. Here are some tips you can implement to reduce the risk of injury and promote a pain-free squatting experience:

Find the Squat Variations that You're Comfortable In

Finding the correct squat variation that you're comfortable in can help avoid lower back pain while squatting. This is because different squat variations can promote proper technique, engage key muscles, and reduce strain on the lumbar spine.

One beginner-friendly squat variation is goblet squats, which target several muscle groups, including glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core, while also working stabilisers in the shoulders and spine.

Correct the Mistakes in Your Squat Technique

To avoid common squat mistakes and maintain a neutral spine position, there are a few key points to focus on.

First, it's important to address any issues with ankle mobility and squat stance. Ankle mobility exercises, such as calf stretches and ankle dorsiflexion drills, can help improve your range of motion. Additionally, widening your squat stance slightly can often alleviate some of the pressure on the lower back.

Next, pay attention to your form during the squat. Keep your chest up and engage your core muscles to maintain a stable spine. Avoid rounding your lower back or allowing it to excessively arch. This can be achieved by focusing on proper hip hinge mechanics and ensuring that your knees track in line with your toes.

Remember, maintaining a neutral spine position is crucial for minimising the risk of lumbar spine injuries during squats. Moreover, if you're unsure about your technique, consider working with a qualified personal trainer who can provide guidance and feedback.

Avoid Pushing Yourself Too Hard With Weights

Gradually progress with the amount of weight you lift during squats to avoid placing excessive strain on your lower back. It is important to prioritise proper form and technique over the amount of weight lifted.

It is better to focus on squat form and start with bodyweight squat, then increase weight progressively, especially when just starting with squatting. This approach allows individuals to develop proper technique and movement patterns before adding external resistance

Moreover, pushing yourself too hard can lead to compromised form and an increased risk of injury. Gradually increasing the weight helps to build strength, stability, and confidence while minimising the risk of injury. Listen to your body and progress at a pace that allows you to maintain control and stability throughout the squatting motion.

Incorporate Core-Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening your core muscles is essential for supporting your lower back during squats. Incorporate exercises that target the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles into your regular workout routine. Planks, Russian twists, and supermans are effective exercises for strengthening the core and promoting stability. Consistency is key, so aim to perform these exercises at least two to three times a week.

Improve Ankle Mobility

Addressing poor mobility of the ankles is crucial for maintaining proper squat mechanics and reducing strain on the lower back. Perform ankle mobility exercises, such as calf stretches and ankle circles, regularly to improve flexibility and range of motion in your ankles. Increased ankle mobility allows for better squatting mechanics and reduces the compensatory movements that can lead to lower back pain.

Warm Up Properly

Before performing squats, it is essential to warm up adequately to prepare your muscles and joints for the exercise. Incorporate dynamic warm-up exercises that target the muscles and joints involved in squatting. Leg swings, hip circles, and bodyweight squats are effective warm-up activities that increase blood flow, improve flexibility, and reduce the risk of lower back pain.

Final Words

Lower back pain during squats can be a frustrating and debilitating issue, but with the right knowledge and approach, it is possible to alleviate the discomfort and prevent future occurrences. Remember to listen to your body, seek professional advice when needed, and prioritise safety and form to achieve the best results. Squat with confidence and enjoy the benefits of this effective exercise while keeping lower back pain at bay.

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