Why does my low back hurt after deadlifting or squatting?

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As long as there isn’t anything sinister going on with your back, most likely the cause of your pain is due to body mechanics. The two most common mechanical problems that we see are either due to poor core/spine stability or lack of mobility.

  1. STABILITY – Not having the core strength/stability to maintain a neutral spine position – As long as our spine is in neutral position it is built to handle heavy loads. However it is not built to handle heavy loads while not in alignment (eg. flexion, extension, rotation). Leaning forward (increasing lumbar flexion) increases the spinal compressive loads, disable proprioceptive control; thus may lead to losing control of the weight to one side or another. Forward flexion with rotation increases intra-articular disc pressure by up to 400%. Therefore, it is critically important to set up in a neutral spine position and maintain that position for the remainder of the lift. If you are unable to hold your core/spine in neutral position while performing the lift, then you need to stop and lower the weight and don’t go up again until you are able to hold neutral spine position.
  2. MOBILITY – Unable to get into the correct position due to soft tissue or joint structures – When there are limitations in soft tissues the most common compensation pattern we see is posterior pelvic tilt at the start position of the deadlift, or at the bottom position of the squat. The biggest culprit of this problem is the hip-flexors and/or hamstrings. If the hip flexors are tight then most likely your pelvis will be held in anterior pelvic tilt, which will prevent the hip from extending fully when you stand up, as well as, pull on the pelvis when the hips are flexed and make it difficult to keep your back straight at the bottom position and cause increased lumbar flexion. If the hamstrings are the problem they can pull the on the pelvis and cause increased posterior pelvic tilt and subsequently increased lumbar flexion at the bottom of the squat or start position of the deadlift. By maintaining an upright position the motion and shear forces across the planes of the discs are reduced, while maintaining optimal tension on the posterior lumbar ligamentous system. Stretch/mobilise these muscles first so that you can get into correct position then work on core stability to be able to maintain position while under loads.

If you are experiencing pain in you low back or anywhere else, please contact one of our Chartered Physiotherapists, Kevin – 0851060869 or Kelly 0852826214 for an assessment or a biomechanical screen.