Dealing with Lower Back Pain Caused by DeadliftsBy Yuna Zhuang
Deadlifts are a popular exercise that can build strength and muscle mass in various parts of the body. It can also potentially help in preventing back pain. However, if not performed correctly, deadlifts can lead to lower back pain. In this article, we will explore the common mistakes that may be causing your lower back pain from deadlifts and discuss ways to relieve the discomfort.
Proper Form Wasn't Observed
The Singaporean adult population experiences lower back pain at a rate of up to 80%, making it a prevalent condition. One of the primary reasons for experiencing lower back pain from deadlifts is a failure to observe proper form. When performing a deadlift, it is crucial to maintain good form by observing a neutral spine and engaging the core muscles.
Here are some common mistakes that may result in deadlifting injuries when not corrected:
Arching the Lower Back
Arching or rounding the lower back alters the natural curvature of the spine, leading to increased and excessive stress on the spinal discs, ligaments, and muscles. This can result in strains, sprains, or disc injuries.
Similarly, this improper posture while deadlifting can also reduce the stability of the spine and lead to improper engagement of the core and stabilising muscle, contributing to a higher risk of experiencing pain and injuries from deadlifts.
To avoid this, focus on keeping your chest up and your shoulders back throughout the movement. Keep your spine neutral by engaging your core muscles and avoiding excessive rounding or arching. Additionally, ensure that your feet are positioned shoulder-width apart and that your grip is firm but not too tight.
Improper Shoulder Position
If the shoulders are pulled too far back during a deadlift, it can lead to excessive retraction of the shoulder blades. This may cause the lifter to arch their back excessively, putting undue stress on the lower back and increasing the risk of injury.
Conversely, having the shoulders too far forward can lead to a rounded upper back and a compromised spinal position. This can increase the strain on the lower back and decrease the stability of the lift, potentially leading to back pain or injuries.
To prevent back pain after deadlifting due to improper shoulder positioning, it's important to focus on maintaining proper alignment and technique. Aim to keep the shoulders in a neutral position throughout the lift, neither too far back nor too far forward. Consider also seeking guidance from a qualified personal trainer to ensure proper deadlift form and shoulder positioning.
Hyperextending the Back
Another mistake that can contribute to lower back pain from deadlifts is hyperextending the back. Hyperextension occurs when the lower back is pushed beyond its natural range of motion, causing strain on the muscles and ligaments.
To prevent hyperextension, maintain a controlled and smooth movement throughout the exercise. Avoid forcefully thrusting your hips forward at the top of the lift, as this can lead to excessive arching in the lower back. Focus on squeezing your glutes and engaging your core to maintain stability and control.
Not Engaging the Lats
The latissimus dorsi, or lats, are large muscles in the back that play a crucial role in stabilising the spine during deadlifts. Failure to engage the lats can result in increased stress on the lower back, leading to pain and discomfort.
To properly engage the lats, imagine pulling the barbell towards your body as you lift. This will activate the muscles in your upper back and help stabilise your spine. Additionally, focus on keeping your shoulders back and down throughout the movement, as this will further engage the lats and promote proper form.
Starting With the Bar Too Far Away
Improper bar placement is another common mistake contributing to lower back pain from deadlifts. Beginning the lift with the bar too far away from your body can cause excessive strain on your lower back as you try to increase the weight.
To avoid this, position the barbell directly over your midfoot before initiating the lift. This will ensure that the weight is evenly distributed and that your body maintains proper alignment throughout the movement. Additionally, make sure to maintain a tight grip on the barbell to further enhance stability.
Not Hitting a Dead Stop
Deadlifts are named for the fact that the weight starts from a dead stop on the floor. Failing to perform the lift from a complete stop can lead to compensatory movements and improper form, which can contribute to lower back pain.
Before each rep, take a moment to reset and ensure that the weight is fully resting on the ground. This will allow you to maintain proper alignment and engage the necessary muscles effectively. Avoid bouncing the weight off the floor or using momentum to initiate the lift, as this can increase the risk of injury.
Inadequate Knee Bending
Proper knee bending is essential for maintaining proper form during deadlifts. Insufficient bending of the knees can lead to an increased load on the lower back, potentially causing pain and discomfort.
To ensure adequate knee bending, focus on sitting back into the movement and allowing your hips to hinge naturally. Your knees should track over your toes, and your weight should be evenly distributed between your heels and the balls of your feet. This will help distribute the load more evenly throughout your body, reducing the strain on your lower back.
Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness
In some cases, lower back pain from deadlifts may not be a result of improper form but rather a natural response to the exercise. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can occur within 24 to 48 hours after intense exercise, including deadlifts.
While DOMS can be uncomfortable, it is a normal part of the muscle recovery process and is expected to subside within a few days. If the pain persists or worsens, consult a healthcare professional.
Muscle Sprain or Strain
In more severe cases, lower back pain from deadlifts may be a result of a muscle sprain or strain. These injuries occur when the muscles or ligaments in the lower back are stretched or torn beyond their normal capacity.
If you suspect that you have sustained a muscle sprain or strain, it is essential to seek medical attention. Resting, applying ice, compressing the area, and elevating the legs can help reduce pain and swelling.
Maintaining Good Form to Prevent Further Injuries
Maintaining good form while deadlifting is important to prevent severe injuries and maximise the effectiveness of the exercise. Proper form involves maintaining the correct alignment of the spine, engaging the right muscles and muscle group, and using an overhand grip to ensure a safe and effective lift.
Setup and Stance: Begin by standing with your mid-foot under the bar, ensuring that your feet are hip-width apart. Position the bar close to your body without touching your shins.
Grip and Hand Placement: Grip the bar with an overhand grip, ensuring that your hands are placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Additionally, use a mixed grip if necessary for heavier lifts, with one hand overhand and the other underhand.
Lumbar Spine and Core Engagement: Before lifting, hinge at the hips to lower yourself to the bar while maintaining a neutral lumbar spine. Engage your core muscles to stabilise the spine and prevent excessive arching or rounding of the lower back.
Lift-off and Pulling Phase: Take a deep breath, brace your core, and drive through your heels to lift the bar off the ground. Keep the bar close to your body as you stand up, ensuring that your back remains straight and your chest is up.
Hip and Knee Extension: As you lift, focus on extending your hips and knees simultaneously, using the strength of your glutes and hamstrings to complete the movement.
Shoulder Position and Upper Back Engagement: Throughout the lift, maintain a strong and stable shoulder position, neither too far back nor too far forward. Engage your upper back muscles, including the traps and rhomboids, to provide support and stability to the spine.
Lowering the Bar: To lower the bar, initiate the movement by pushing your hips back and bending your knees while keeping the bar close to your body. Lower the bar in a controlled manner, maintaining proper alignment and engaging the appropriate muscle groups.
Ways to Relieve Lower Back Pain from Deadlifts
If you experience pain in the back from deadlifts, there are several methods you can try to relieve the discomfort and promote healing. It's important to note that these methods should be used in conjunction with proper form and technique to prevent further deadlifting injury.
One of the most effective ways to relieve lower back pain from deadlifts is to rest. Give your body time for recovery and healing process by taking a break from deadlifts and other exercises that aggravate the pain. This will allow the muscles and ligaments in your lower back to repair themselves and reduce inflammation.
Do Core Stability Exercises and Other Strengthening Exercises
Engaging in core stability exercises and other strengthening exercises can help alleviate lower back pain and prevent future injuries. These exercises target the muscles that support the spine, improving stability and reducing the load on the lower back during deadlifts.
Abdominal Draw In Maneuvers
Abdominal draws in manoeuvres, also known as abdominal bracing, involve engaging the deep abdominal muscles to stabilise the spine and pelvis during physical activities such as deadlifts. This technique can help prevent back pain and injuries by providing extra support to the lower back and promoting proper spinal alignment.
To do this, start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart and maintain a neutral spine position. Inhale deeply and expand your belly, then exhale and gently draw your navel in towards your spine. Imagine pulling your belly button towards your spine while maintaining normal breathing.
To maintain activation of this manoeuvre, keep the deep abdominal muscles engaged throughout the deadlift movement, from the setup to the lift and lowering phases. Focus on bracing your core as if preparing to take a light punch to the stomach.
Dead bugs are an excellent exercise for strengthening the core and stabilising the spine. To do the dead bugs exercise, start by lying on your back with your arms reaching towards the ceiling and your legs bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower one arm and the opposite leg towards the floor while keeping your lower back pressed into the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Incorporating the bird dog yoga pose into a workout routine can help strengthen the core and improve spinal stability, thereby aiding in the prevention of back pain related to deadlifts.
To perform this yoga pose, begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, ensuring that your wrists are aligned under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Simultaneously extend your right arm forward and your left leg backwards, maintaining a straight line from your fingertips to your heel.
Hold this extended position for a few seconds, focusing on keeping your core engaged and your back stable. Gently lower your arm and leg back to the starting position. Repeat the movement with the opposite arm and leg.
Planks are an excellent exercise for strengthening the core and stabilising the spine. Begin in a push-up position with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your forearms resting on the ground. Engage your core and hold this position for as long as possible while maintaining proper form. Gradually increase the duration as your strength improves.
Use Braces for Back Support
Using braces for back support can provide additional stability and reduce strain on the lower back during deadlifts. These braces are designed to support the muscles and ligaments in the lower back, promoting proper alignment and reducing the risk of injury.
When selecting a back brace, look for one that is comfortable, adjustable, and provides adequate support. It is important to note that back braces should not be used as a substitute for proper form and technique. They should be used in conjunction with other preventive measures to ensure safe and effective deadlifts.
Seek Physiotherapy Sessions
If your lower back pain from deadlifts persists or worsens despite rest and self-care measures, it may be beneficial to seek sessions on physiotherapy for lower back pain. A qualified physiotherapist from Phoenix Rehab can assess your condition, provide targeted treatments, and guide you through exercises and stretches that promote healing and prevent future injuries from deadlifting and other heavy lifting activities.
Singapore back pain physiotherapy sessions may include techniques such as manual therapy, ultrasound, heat or cold therapy, and specific exercises tailored to your needs. Working with a professional can help you address the underlying causes of your lower back pain and develop a personalised treatment plan for long-term relief.
When to See a Doctor
While most cases of lower back pain from deadlifts can be managed with rest and self-care measures, there are situations where it is important to consult a doctor. Sharp lower back pain after deadlifts is a red flag and should warrant seeking medical attention immediately.
Similarly, you should also seek advice from your doctor if the sharp pain that you're experiencing is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or difficulty walking.
It's also important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan if your lower back pain is the result of a traumatic injury or if you have a pre-existing medical condition that affects your spine or musculoskeletal system.
When Are You Ready to Do Deadlifts Again?
Once your lower back pain has subsided and you have addressed the underlying causes, you may be eager to resume deadlifts. However, it is important to approach this exercise with caution to prevent a recurrence of pain or further injury.
Before reintroducing deadlifts into your workout routine, ensure that you have fully recovered and regained strength and flexibility in your lower back. Start with only your body weight or with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as your confidence and comfort level improve. Working with a knowledgeable trainer or coach may also be beneficial to ensure proper form and technique.
Lower back pain from deadlifts can be a frustrating setback for those seeking to build strength and muscle mass. However, with a thorough understanding of proper form, preventive measures, and methods for relieving pain, you can continue to benefit from this powerful exercise while minimising the risk of injury.
Remember to prioritise good form, engage the correct muscles, and listen to your body's signals. If you experience lower back pain, take the necessary steps to address the issue and promote healing. By doing so, you can enjoy the countless benefits of deadlifts and maintain a healthy and pain-free back.