You have racked your weights for the day. Yet, you can’t seem to shake it - that achy and nagging pain in your low back. It started during your deadlift or perhaps when you were bumping up the weights on your bicep curls. And it isn’t going away. In fact, it might even be getting worse.
That stats are in. According to the experts, over 80% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their life. And perhaps unsurprisingly, back pain is one of the most common weightlifting injuries.
What is Causing Your Low Back Pain?
If you experience low back pain after lifting weights, the most frequent cause is a muscle strain or a ligament sprain. A strain or sprain occurs when a muscle or ligament is stretched past its normal limits. The problem often originates due to bad form or technique.
Why does bad form happen? You might be lifting too much - the old too much, too soon conundrum - or you may just not have been paying enough attention to your form (Preventative tip: Use those mirrors for each and every rep!).
Another common cause is a herniated disc or a slipped disc. In between each vertebra in the spine are shock-absorbing discs. As we age, these discs become dehydrated. This can cause the disc to protrude. Specific movements may also throw the discs out of place - such as twisting or lifting heavy objects. This protrusion can cause pain and create pressure on nearby nerves. In this case, low back pain is often accompanied by tingling, numbness, or weakness in the buttocks or legs.
Fixing Your Low Back Pain
If you are experiencing extreme pain, seek medical attention immediately. Even if the pain is not severe, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis. This way you get get the proper treatment and prevent the risk of re-injury. Book an appointment with your doctor or physical therapist.
In the meantime, there are ways you can ease your low back pain. First off, make sure to avoid heavy lifting until the pain has subsided. Doing so could aggravate the issue and lead to a more chronic problem.
Use heat relief to soothe your pain. Apply heat for 15 minutes at a time. And make sure to place a cloth in between your skin and the heat device. You can try our thermal back brace to bring relief and support to your back.
You can also try the following stretches and strengthening exercise. They can help ease your pain and release tightness in the muscles. If any exercise causes pain, stop or ease off. Adjust and try again. If the pain continues, forego the exercise until your pain levels have improved.
Cat & Cow Stretch
The cat and cow stretch originates from yoga. It helps in maintaining and improving range of motion in your low back. At the same time, it stretches out any tight spots, releasing tension.
- Begin on all-fours. Place your hands, with your arms straight, directly under your shoulders. Position your knee directly under your hips.
- Start with a neutral and straight back.
- Inhale and gently curve your back downward. Your stomach should be intending toward the floor.
- Bring your gaze to look up.
- Hold for 5 seconds or whatever feels comfortable and good to you.
- Exhale and gently curve your back upward.
- Bring your head down in between your arms.
- Hold again for 5 seconds or whatever feels the most comfortable.
- Continue to alternate between the 2 positions for 10 repetitions.
- Complete this stretch up to 3 times per day.
Child’s pose is another stretch that can help release tension in that low back area.
- Begin on all-fours.
- Slowly bring your buttocks back toward your heels. Your arms should remain outstretched in front of you.
- Only bring your buttocks back as far as you comfortably can.
- Hold in the desired position for 20-30 seconds, and complete up to 3 times per day.
Knee to Chest Stretch
The knee to chest stretch releases tightness in the buttocks and low back. It can also help improve hip range of motion.
- Lie face up on a comfortable surface, with your legs extend straight in front of you.
- Gently bend your right knee up toward your chest.
- Grab your leg with your hands and pull it as close to your chest as you can.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times per day. Make sure to do the same thing on your left side.
The transverse abdominis muscle, or the TA, is a deep abdominal muscle. Unfortunately, it is also often neglected. This muscle acts as a corset, stabilizing your pelvis and spine. If it is weak, you are more at risk of a back injury since your body will compensate in other ways. And yes, you can have a 6-pack but a weak TA muscle.
This exercise is a basic static exercise to practice contracting the TA muscle. At the end of the ‘How To’ section, we offer variations to help you further progress and strengthen your TA.
- Lie face up on a comfortable surface, with your knees bent and your feet flat.
- Squeeze your lower abdominals - as if you were pulling a tightrope together in between your hip bones or as if you were stopping the flow of urine.
- If you aren’t sure if you are doing it right, feel with your fingers in between your hips. Is it tightening? It shouldn’t bulge. And your low back should remain on the bed or ground throughout the exercise. It does take some practice so don’t become discouraged if the first few times you are a little bit confused.
- Aim to hold this contraction for 5-10 seconds. Do 10-12 repetitions, 2-3 times per day.
- To progress the exercise, add a knee lift. Once this becomes easy, you can practice lifting both legs, then extending them. But always make sure to keep that low back flat on the ground.
Preventing Future Injury
Often, low back pain cases are acute - meaning they last for a few days to a couple of weeks. The important part is to prevent recurrence. Keep performing the above exercises, as well as work on strengthening your TA muscle. Always make sure to watch your form. Keep your back straight and a proper posture with the help of a back brace. And make sure to gradually increase your weights or intensity.
It is strongly recommended to use weightlifting belt to prevent future injury. These belts add support to the low back and keep your sacroiliac joint (the joint that connects your spine to your hip bones) in check. Don’t let your back pain turn into a chronic injury. Seek out help or treatment early. Get back to reaching your goals and living your best life, minus any pain or discomfort.