Whether you’re doing weightlifting squats at the gym, lifting your baby’s car seat all day long, or you lift consistently for your day job, you’re at risk of injuring your lower back. Understandably, most people aren’t often focused on technique when they are picking up a crying child, moving a box to a shelf, or doing free weights at the gym. However, it is in those moments when injury is most likely to occur. There are never any guarantees that you can completely avoid injuries, but you can greatly reduce your risk. So let’s take a moment to explore the types of injuries we want to avoid, who is at risk, and what support and techniques we can adopt to reduce our chances of injury. After all, the best way to heal an injury is to avoid ever getting one in the first place.
Common Lower Back Injuries
The lower back bears much of the body’s weight when walking, running, lifting and other activities. As such an integral part of the human body, it’s not super shocking that it is also the most common area for injury. The most common injuries are a muscle strain, ligament sprain, or herniated disc.
Muscle Strains and Ligament Sprains
A back strain is an injury to either a muscle or tendon, while a back sprain is the stretching or tearing of a ligament. Neither of these injuries are something you want to experience. This type of injury could be caused in a single moment or by the constant overstressing of weak back muscles. If your career involves consistent lifting or you’re lifting at the gym daily, you’ll want to pay extra attention to strengthening your back muscles. More to come on that below.
Improper weight lifting could be one of the leading causes of this injury. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, a herniated disk is a condition that can occur anywhere along the spine, but most often occurs in the lower back. It is sometimes called a bulging, protruding, or ruptured disk. It is one of the most common causes of lower back pain, as well as leg pain or “sciatica.
If you feel that you have a low back injury please seek the care of your chiropractor to determine the best course of treatment.
Who is at risk for back injuries?
The short answer is everyone. An injury from lifting weights could happen from improperly doing deadlifts or picking up an item that was simply too heavy for you. Each of these tasks is compressing your spine and putting unnecessary pressure on the low back. It’s also worth mentioning that someone who is not active at all is at even greater risk of injury. When your body isn’t moving frequently, it is more likely to tweak when lifting.
Injury Prevention Techniques
The top three ways to avoid injury due to lifting comes down to stretching, strengthening, and proper technique. Let’s look closer at ways to prevent injury.
An increase in muscular strength decreases the prevalence and severity of pain. Improvements and changes from strength training can have long-lasting effects that improve posture and decrease the chance of injury to the low back. To avoid injuries associated with poor lifting techniques, you need to focus on strengthening the core. The core is made up of the back and abdominal muscles that primarily function to stabilize the body and build a foundation for upper and lower body strength. Here you will find some simple strengthening moves.
Increase Flexibility with Stretching
A strong body is great, but shortened muscles can throw the spine out of alignment and cause back pain. Stretching lengthens shorten muscles and can help relieve back pain and prevent an injury from occurring. Stretching exercises should focus on the low back, buttocks, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, abdominals and calves. Yoga is a potent way to stretch and elongate the muscles. Here are 5 quick poses to try. Consider starting your day with a quick 5-minute stretching routine.
Learn Proper Lifting Techniques
You can greatly avoid placing stress on the low back by keeping the body in a proper, aligned position throughout movements. Lifting injuries occur on a daily basis, so it is important to practice safe techniques to protect your spine. The following are key points to injury-free lifting:
- Assess the situation: Stop. Look at what you’re about to lift. Consider how you’ll approach lifting it. Take a quick second to be aware before lifting.
- Check your stance: Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart, knees are bent, and your back is straight. Feet are shoulder-width apart to allow stability. Bending your knees and lifting allows you to maintain integrity in your spine.
- Engage your core muscles: Invite more than your 6-pack to the party. Your core also includes your diaphragm, back muscles, and pelvic floor muscles. Before lifting, take a deep breath in and engage your core before squatting down to lift.
- Lift with the legs: Your legs are powerful. Use them instead of your back.
- Lift close to the body: Wherever possible, hug the weight load close to your body. This will usually provide more stability than just gripping it with your hands.
More Ways to Support Your Back When You Lift
In addition to strengthening, stretching, and achieving proper technique, you can support your back in other ways. If you are lifting at the gym daily or have a job that requires frequent lifting, it may be worth looking into the support of a belt or similar product.
According to an article in Men’s Health, a belt can help you lift heavier objects, but it cannot protect you from injury if you’re not practicing the proper lifting technique. It serves as more of an external cue to your body to remain engaged as you’re lifting.
While we strengthen and lengthen our bodies with physical activity, we can also support it from the inside with the right supplements and good nutrition. Joint health is so important in protecting your body. One product that AlignLife Chiropractors regularly recommend is Mobility from Aceva as it combines the power of Turmeric and other anti-inflammatory herbal extracts. This supplement helps stave off inflammation and give you more support in your joints, making your back much stronger.
Final Thoughts on Lifting Weights and Avoiding Back Injuries
Whether you’re lifting a baby or doing deadlifts, you are at risk of injuring your lower back. With a combination of stretching, strength training, technique, supportive gear, and supplements, you can greatly decrease your chances. Always consult your AlignLife Chiropractor if you have more questions or are dealing with back pain brought on by improper lifting.