As someone that hits the gym on a regular basis, you are dedicated to achieving your fitness goals. When there is any kind of setback including a sharp lower back pain after deadlifts, it can be frustrating both physically and mentally.
One study completed of 486 CrossFit participants determined that out of all the injuries reported over a set amount of time, low back pain was the most common for powerlifting movements.
So, unless you want to eliminate deadlifting from your workout routine, and we're guessing you don't, you need to follow some basic tips for keeping lower back pain from deadlifts at bay.
One of the most common reasons for hurting your lower back during a deadlift is from trying to pick something heavy off the floor with your back in a rounded position.
According to OSHA, lifting loads over the 50-pound mark, no matter how physically fit you are, increases the risk of hurting your back. That's even more likely if you aren't following the proper mechanics for posture. The pressure put on your spinal discs with an excessive or recessed arch is uneven and can lead to herniations, pinched nerves, or bulges.
You can lower back pain or eliminate it by keeping your back in a very slightly curved natural position that is the same as what you have when you are standing up straight.
You have to be sure that your back is in the right position before you start lifting because after you have the weight in your hands, it's no longer going to work.
Put the bar against your shins over the mid-foot area and lift your chest. Tense up the core region and pull your hips up ensuring that your hips and chest rise together. If your hips aren't rising, you aren't using your legs to support the weight. That means your back is working way harder than it has to. Reset your posture in between repetitions to eliminate fatigue and rounding over.
Okay, so you aren't actually going to be able to bend the bar, but you can pretend that's what you're doing if you want to get rid of that lower back pain from your deadlifts. It is common for lifters to let the bar slip away from them when they are coming back to the original resting position. That puts added pressure on the spine which can lead to injury or discomfort.
As mentioned, you need to keep the bar near or on your shins so that you start and end the rep with your lats engaged. That's what keeps your body tight and in the proper position. When you are making the pretend action of bending the bar, your shoulders automatically go into a down and back position engaging the lat muscles in your back.
Up to 6.3 million people are injured every single year as a result of using improper lifting techniques, trying to lift something that's too heavy, or from not practicing safe movements.
Part of practicing safe movements and techniques means that you start from the correct position for your deadlift from the beginning. While most people don't have much trouble picking their bar off of the floor, it could be causing more stress on your body than you realize.
That's good news for you in a way, because it means that you could quite possibly be following the proper form, you just aren't biomechanically correct in your setup.
Commonly, people with longer torsos and shorter arms are going to deal with back pain from lifting off the floor directly. You can put your bar on bumper plates to raise how tall the bar sits to eliminate that problem. Sumo-style deadlifts or changing up your range of motion could be the answer to making your deadlifts more comfortable to complete as well.
By watching someone else do their deadlifts, you automatically get the idea that it's a pulling exercise. While that's true to a certain extent, it's also very much a pushing motion.
You want your hips and shoulders moving at the same time to prevent injury and get the most from each repetition. To do that, you should be pushing into the ground through your feet and heels at the same time as you pull the barbell.
By thinking about pushing throughout the movement, you are going to get the necessary tension to keep your back in the proper arch to prevent back pain.
It's great that you are confident in your abilities, and everyone should reach for big goals. However, it's how you get there that's most important. You may have seen some of those outrageous yet kind of hilarious videos on the internet of people trying to lift too much only to fail ridiculously. It looks funny from the comfort of your computer chair, doesn't it?
The reality is, according to a story published in The New York Times, between 1990 and 2007 there were almost one million people that wound up in hospitals across the country because of weight lifting injuries.
Sure, you want to push yourself and continually do better at each visit to your gym, but you need to do so in a way that your body agrees with. You might think that every time you pick up your deadlift bar you have to increase the weight and do more than you did the last time. It sounds nice, but it isn't really feasible.
Sometimes you just have to stay at the same level for a while before your bones and muscles are ready to take things up a notch. If you keep pushing your body to the max every time you go out, eventually, something is going to blow up. It's just too much pressure.
Check your ego at the door, only do what your body is comfortable with, and follow the proper posture and follow through to prevent deadlift low back pain now and in the future.
And if you've hurt your back while lifting weights off the floor, a possible solution to for recovery is acupuncture treatment. Or if you're desperate, you can get a futon and sleep on the floor! It helped me!
Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his Bachelor's of Science degree before receiving his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College.
He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He is passionate about being a chiropractor, and he strives to provide his patients with compassionate care for an overall better health and well-being.
Dr. Wells is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. He continues his education in studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, and brain injury trauma.
Bakalar, N. (2010, June 14). Weight-Lifting Gains Bring Pains, Too. Retrieved October 09, 2018, from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/health/15stat.html
Improper Lifting: Potential Injuries and How to Protect Against Them. (n.d.). Retrieved October 09, 2018, from https://mescforyou.ksc.nasa.gov/RehabWorks/Article_ElbArticle
Materials Handling: Heavy Lifting. (n.d.). Retrieved October 09, 2018, from United States Department of Labor: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/electricalcontractors/materials/heavy.html
Weisenthal, B. B., Beck, M. P., Maloney, M. M., DeHaven, M. K., & Giordano, M. B. (2014, April). Injury Rate and Patterns Among CrossFit Athletes. Retrieved October 09, 2018, from US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4555591/