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As a bodybuilder it is essential that you are in tune with your body. To help prevent or avoid injuries you need to know the difference between pain caused through exertion during a lifting session and the pain caused by an injury. By understanding what the difference is, you will be able to stop pushing the bad pain, preventing a full blown injury, and allowing you get back to the gym sooner.
90% of the population will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. There are varying degrees of back pain, the most common being mechanical lower back pain, which can be treated conservatively (not needing surgery).
Our lower back is involved in most things you do in weight lifting. It is involved during standing bicep curls as well as when you are dead lifting. When you experience lower back pain it can affect most of the exercises you do in the gym preventing you from training, not good!
What are the causes of Lower Back Pain
Not warming up:
- It’s crazy the amount of times I see people walk into the gym (after a day of sitting on their bums), go straight over to the squat rack, fire out 10 reps and then load the bar up and go for it. Then they wonder why they have back pain. A good warm up is essential to preventing back pain. Your glutes are the foundation your back sits on and they should be primed and ready for action. If your on legs day you should carry out this Glute Warm Up
Poor technique: There are 2 ways to hurt your back through poor technique.
- The first one is the most obvious, if your lifting technique is poor your going to hurt your back. It doesn’t have to be a rubbish deadlift technique with 200kg on the bar! It can be as simple as swinging your back during bicep curls. You do this over a few sets and your back will give out.
- The second way is through poor manual handling technique. Your lower back is at its most vulnerable when you are bent over and twisting to the side. This is exactly the same position I see lifters picking up dumbbells or plates and moving them from rack to bench or floor to rack. You need to slow down and essentially dead lift each weight to where you want it to go. Nothing worse than having to tell someone you hurt you back lifting a 45lb plate.
Lifting too heavy:
- Trying to lift a weight, which is too heavy, will load forces on your lower back that it’s not ready to take. It will also cause you to adapt your technique (most likely for the worst), which will increase the stress on the back and cause you pain.
Treating Lower Back Pain
When you have acute back pain you should:
- Rest from aggravating activities
- Take pain medication as needed
- Walk – try to go for a walk every day. Start with 10 minutes and increase as able
- Do not stay in the same position for more than 20 minutes
- Use a lumber support for your lower back. You can make one by rolling up a towel and taping it in place
- Use heat to reduce muscle spasm
- Go and see you local Chartered Physiotherapist
- Work on your core to prevent recurrence of pain and aid recovery after injury.
- Modify your training and slowly re-introduce your body to lifting again
- If you have pins and needles, numbness or weakness in your leg(s) go and see your doctor
For bodybuilders and lifters muscle growth is the reason that you push the boundaries of discomfort, tiredness and pain (remember good pain). When you injury or tear a muscle, scar tissue will develop, which can reduce the effectiveness of the muscle and increase the chances of recurrence in the future.
Potential causes of muscle tears in the gym include:
- Lifting too heavy: When a muscle is overloaded it reaches breaking point and the excessive force causes the muscle fibres to tear.
- Overuse:This can occur when you exercise the muscle too much with out proper recovery time. The muscle becomes fatigued, resulting in a tear
- Misuse: This comes back to poor technique. Lifting weights the wrong way will cause the muscle to tear, doing a job it’s not designed to carry out.
- Not warming up sufficiently: Muscle is like an elastic band. The warmer it is, the more efficient the contractile fibres become. A cold muscle is a quick way to increase the risk of a tear.