Back Pain In The Gym?
Updated: Jan 29
There are three common types of low back pain* associated with lifting at the gym.
The most common type is the kind that hurts with deadlifting and with squatting. Activities outside of the gym that go with this type of back pain includes:
Sitting at the computer
Bending down to pick something up
Sometimes coughing and sneezing pain
Tying your shoes
What can be done to help with this low back pain?
The first step is to remove the cause of the pain; the movements and mechanics responsible for the symptoms. It sounds simple but often times, people are doing stretches and movements that might be causing a problem without knowing it.
Avoid any stretch that has the back in a rounded position.
Avoid positions as possible that put your back in a rounded and compressed position. This includes sitting.
Stretch/mobilize and move in the direction opposite of the original injury. For example, if you injure yourself with forward flexion/bending you’re going to want to restore extension movement as soon as you can. Exercise: McKenzie press up.
Bedrest is old school as most people know by now. It’s important to keep the muscles that attach right onto the spine activated as these temd to become weak in the presence back pain.
Take short but fast walks: Walk as fast as you can for 10 minutes or less.
Use the bird dog exercise as described by McGill. It activates the small muscles on the back to prevent those muscles from weakening/atrophy.
Hip hinge with all movements in the acute stage. The phrase I use is “preserve the curve”. Restoring the hip hinge is a huge piece of the puzzle for prevention and that should start immediately.
Erector endurance is prioritized over erector strength. Wide stance good mornings, Romanian deadlifts, the reverse hyper machine, all with impeccable form and focusing on time under tension/endurance are important for prevention of future episodes.
Other good links:
Bracing and breathing (for getting back to squatting)
Hip hinge & hip flexibility workout (after the acute stage)
When can you deadlift again? (A research article helping answer this question with testing recommendations)
*This way of categorizing low back pain ignores the actual pain generator (disc, joint, muscle, connective tissue, nerve, etc) That's a different topic. If this doesn't describe your type of back pain, you're most likely in one of the other two categories. Send me a message and I'll share my recommendations with you based on your type of back pain.
Alex Tapplin, DC, CSCS, CCSP
Sports Medicine Specialist Chiropractor