Deadlift Back Pain and Soreness: How to Fix It, Tips & Common Causes

Any list that mentions of best exercises won’t be complete without deadlifts in it. Deadlifts are one of the best compound exercises that work on strengthening almost all major muscle groups.

Whether you are just a beginner or a powerlifter, deadlifts are surely one of the main lifts you would have in your routine. If done in proper form, this exercise can help you strengthen your whole posterior chain and the core at any level.

Even though it seems easy on the first look, performing the deadlift in the correct form is not as easy as just picking the dead barbell and put it back. Lack of form and jerky movement while performing can cause lower back pain after deadlifts and, in some cases, a serious injury.

It is normal if your lower back hurts after deadlifts. When you perform any exercise, there would be some muscle soreness. That soreness is not an issue, it is kind of an indication of the work you put in was effective. But, if that discomfort lasts longer than it should, it may be time to pay attention and work on some prevention and remedies.

In this fitness and wellness guide, we attempt to bring the common causes that can inflict lower back pain from deadlifts or result in deadlift-related injuries. We also included tips to prevent such injuries and back pain along with some ways to fix it.

Deadlift Back Pain

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Is It Bad If Your Lower Back Sore After Deadlifts? 

There is no straight answer to this question as soreness can mean different things in different situations. Any high-intensity exercise would induce some kind of pain during, just after, and after a few hours of exercise.

Deadlifts are usually performed at high intensity. That can cause a tight back or acute muscle soreness in the lower back due to lactic acid build-up during the workout. So, the lower back hurts after deadlifts. This pain is normal and wouldn’t last for long after the workout, and it is not considered as bad for the back.

There is another type of pain that you may experience after a few hours of exercise. Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS is the muscle pain that starts after 12 hours to two days after the workout session.

If you get your lower back sore after deadlifts, it may just mean that your body is responding to the workout. But if there is sharp lower back pain after deadlifts, or inability to move then, it is not normal and definitely bad.

Is It Normal To Have Back Pain After Deadlifts?

Having acute muscle pain during and just after performing a deadlift set, or having a tight back is normal as the deadlifts are mostly done with heavier weights than many other lifts. This type of lower back pain from deadlift is your body’s normal response to the overload it is subjected to during the exercise.

When you work out after a break, change the workout routine or push your limits, you are likely to get a sore lower back a day or two after the workout session. This delayed onset muscle soreness is also normal after the heavy deadlifts.

If you continue working on a set workout routine for a long period of time while making small progressions, you will be making progress in terms of muscle mass and strength gain without feeling any muscle soreness, and that is normal too.

Having a sharp lower back pain after deadlifts or the pain that runs through your spine and vertebrae is not normal. It is either due to some underlying old injury or an injury you got in the last workout session.

How To Fix Back Pain From Deadlifts?

How To Fix Back Pain From Deadlifts

There is always a possibility of getting lower back pain from deadlifts. There can be many reasons for that, it may be bad form, lower strength, wrong equipment, or just your muscles some accidental jerk.

Any other pain in the lower back than the natural response of the muscles for the workout is not good and has to be dealt with. It is better to know the preventive measures like the right technique, correct equipment, etc. It is also important to understand the type of pain and the ways to fix it.

Strain or Sprain

The pain in the back after the deadlifts can either be a simple strain due to exercise or a sprain.

When you perform a heavy deadlift session, you get your muscles stretched. This may cause your muscles and tendons to get torn. The resultant pain can be called strain.

On the other hand, if you tear a ligament during the deadlifts, the resultant pain would be a sprain. Both strain and sprain can be severe or mild. And both can cause lower back pain, mobility issues, and stiffness.

Healing Process

Your muscles need time to recover after each workout. To recover fully without any loss of strength, you need to rest the muscle group you had exercised on for at least 48 hours.

If you strain or sprain your back while working out, you would need more time than that to be cured. In this case, instead of just the sore muscles, you might be experiencing severe low back pain after deadlifts for the first 2-3 days.

For the natural healing process to run its course you need to stop lifting weights or at least avoid lifting heavy. If you perform some intense exercises within the week of having a strain or having sprained back, you might delay the healing or may worsen your injury.

Other than resting, you can apply some ice and heat to the back alternatively for a few minutes every two hours. This, if done along with taking rest from exercises would help your recovery. Instead of icing and applying the heat pack, you can also opt for some ointment that can stimulate the fire and ice effect.

Restore Muscle Balance & Strength 

In order to restore the muscle strength and balance after a back sprain or strain and be ready to perform the heavy deadlifts again, you need to go through some rehabilitative exercise routine.

Here are few exercises that would help you get your strength back, restore the muscle balance, and also improve your form.

90/90 Pelvic Tilt

All variants of pelvic tilts are helpful in strengthening the core, reduce the severe low back pain after deadlifts, and strengthen the lower back. The 90/90 pelvic tilt in particular is helpful in lower back pain after deadlift due to hyperextended lumbar spine.

To perform 90/90 pelvic stabilization tilt, you need a bench or a knee-high chair. Lie on your back and put your feet on the bench in such a way that your knees are at 90-degree angle and your hips are also bent at 90 degree. Tighten your glutes and tilt your pelvis forward to lift the hips up. Then go to the starting position in a controlled motion. 4-5 sets of 15-20 reps would do the trick.

Assisted Hip Airplane

The hip airplane is a good exercise for muscle balance and control. Till you get the strength, balance, and control to perform the hip airplane you can perform the assisted hip airplane.

For performing this, you get on single-leg stance, lean your body forward to hold on to a wall or vertical upright of your power cage while extending your leg back. Now rotate your torso and the hanging leg away from the leg you are standing on, then rotate it back. Perform some reps, then repeat the same for the other leg.

Bird Dog Exercise

It is a kind of physical therapy that engages both your core and lower back muscles at the same time. It is a safe exercise to perform during the recovery, and it helps you get rid of that lower back pain.

For performing bird dog, you need to go down on knees and hands then lift your right hand extending it forward while lifting the left knee extending the leg back. After some reps change the leg and perform the same reps. You can also perform the bird dogs alternatively if you prefer.

Side Planks

Side planks are one of the easiest ways to work on the obliques. It will help you strengthen the obliques and improve the health of the spine.

To get into a side plank hold, lie on the floor or mat on your right side, rest your right elbow and on the mat and lift your body, balancing the weight on your forearm and your feet. Hold the position for a minute or two, then change the side.

Cat-Cow Pose

Cat-cow is a great flow movement for improving your posture, balance, and help you relieve your lower back pain. The synchronized breathing you would be doing while getting in and out of the pose would help you release the stress.

To perform these, you need to get on all fours, that is on your hands and knees with your knees a bit apart. Now while inhaling get into the cat position by lowering your belly and raising your head looking up. Then get into cat position exhaling by tucking your tailbone, rounding your back, and lowering your head looking towards the belly. Do as many repetitions as you can for a minute or two.

Knee-to-chest Stretches

The knee-to-chest stretches would help relieve the soreness and pain in your back effectively. For doing these stretches, you need to lie on the back with your knees bent. Hold one knee with both hands and gently try to bring it towards your chest.

Hold that position for a few seconds and then lower the knee back and repeat it with the other leg.

Banded Bridge

You need the resistance bands of appropriate strength to perform the banded bridge. You lie on your back with your knees bend, and the bands wrapped just above your knees. Spread your knees to get some tension on the bands.

Lift your torso by forcing the heels on the floor and squeezing the glutes. Lower your body and repeat for the desired number of reps. These bridges are effective on the lower back and glute muscles.

Hip Hinge With Dowel

The hip hinges target your whole posterior chain. This easy exercise would help you strengthen the lower back, glutes, and core.

It is easy to perform these hip hinges. You need to stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a dowel running along your spine. Hold the dowel with one hand behind your neck and the other hand behind your lower back in a reciprocal position.

Now bend at your hips, lowering your head forward till your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Do some reps and reverse the hand positions and repeat the same number of reps.

Kettle Bell Deadlifts

For someone who is accustomed to perform heavy barbell deadlifts, the kettlebell deadlifts may feel very light. But it is a very effective rehabilitative exercise to help you build back the balance and strength in the lower back.

You perform the kettlebell deadlifts similar to barbell deadlifts. Just use the kettlebell instead of a barbell.

Rack Pulls 

Rack pulls are one of the effective ways to get rid of the back pain you got from deadlifts. The movement of the rack pulls is similar to actual barbell deadlifts.

You perform the rack pulls with the power rack by keeping the barbell on the spotter arms. The spotters are set at height around your knees, making the movement a little shorter than the full deadlift.

The rack pulls are usually performed with an empty barbell but you can add a little weight if it helps you move in a controlled motion.

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9 Tips To Prevent Deadlift Injury & Back Pain

Tips To Prevent Deadlift Injury & Back Pain

Back pain can be disastrous to your fitness goals. It can limit your movement, stop you from working out for weeks, and delay your progress. Thus, it is better to prevent it rather than having to deal with it. Here are a few tips that can help you prevent deadlift injuries and back pain. These are just a few adjustments you need to do in your move or the positions that you can easily do.

Set and maintain spinal position:

Throughout the deadlift move, you need to keep your spine straight and neutral and the chest up. A rounded back can cause lower back pain after deadlifts and may induce DOMS in upper back muscles.

Optimize the hip height at starting position:

If you start your deadlift with your hips too high, you will put excessive pressure on the lower back that may result in an injury. You need to optimize the hip position suitable to your height at the start of your move to prevent excess stress on the lower back.

Maintain the bar near your legs:

To avoid putting too much cantilever load on your back, you need to keep the barbell close to your center of gravity throughout the move. To achieve this, avoid moving the hips too early, start with the quads and keep the knees bent a little longer.

Optimize the frequency and intensity:

Lifting too heavy, fast, and too frequently can cause more damage than you can imagine. You need to optimize your workout schedule to allow enough rest and plan your progressions better to avoid unnecessary stress on the back.

Mix up training intensity:

If you perform deadlifts twice a week, that doesn’t mean you should be performing all the 8-9 sessions in a month at the highest intensity possible. You should mix the training sessions. Some sessions are high-intensity, while the others can be high-volume sessions at a lower intensity.

Optimize the training intensity:

Your body is not capable of reaching your personal best in every session. And it is not optimum to train near your 1RM at every workout session. The majority of your training volume should be around 65 to 75 percent of your 1RM weight.

Utilize loading down supersets:

You are at top of the strength for the session at the start just after the warm-up sets. So, perform your top set first, then follow it up with back down sets lowering the barbell weight on each set. This will help you lift the required volume without raising the rate of exertion to an injurious level.

Optimize the rest periods:

You need a minimum of 48 hours rest for the muscles to recover without loss of strength. For the compound and high-intensity exercises like deadlift, the rest period should be a bit longer than that. Most of the programs schedule only one deadlift session per week, that is the optimum frequency for deadlifts in most cases.

Include deloading weeks in the schedule:

If you are following a progression program, there should be a few deloading weeks included in your schedule after every 6-12 weeks of progression. That would help your overstressed back to relax and prevent possible injury.

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9 Common Causes For Back Pain After Deadlifts

Common Causes For Back Pain After Deadlifts

If you know exactly what are the causes of back pain you would be able to find ways to prevent them yourself. Here are the most common reasons for back pain after deadlifts. Understand them and try to avoid these mistakes.

Not keeping the back straight:

Rounding the spine is going to stress your spine excessively and would definitely result in back pain in the longer run.

Not engaging the lats:

 Not engaging the biggest muscle group of the back in an exercise meant for strengthening the back could lead to added stress on the lower back.

Keeping the bar away from your legs:

Keeping the barbell away from your center of gravity puts a lot of strain on your back and fails to engage the hams and glutes in the process.

Not bending the knees enough:

If you don’t bend your knees enough, you are trying to lift the whole weight of the loaded barbell just with your lower back, and that is a recipe for disaster.

Getting too much involved in pulling the weight:

Driving vertical push force on the floor while lifting the bar close to your shin will help you keep the spine neutral as opposed to when you focus more on the pulling.

Overextending at the top:

The deadlift should finish at an upright position, if you extend it farther you put a lot of pressure on the back and have a chance of falling over.

Not engaging the core:

This is the top reason for back pain after deadlifts and also the reason for the uncontrolled dropping of weight.

Jerky movement:

In both directions, lifting the weight or putting it down, if you do it too fast the movement is going to be jerky. It would put an explosive impact load on the back.

Lack of accessory work:

The accessory moves are often overlooked, but these are the exercises that work on your weak points.

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How Should Your Back Feel After Deadlifts?

Just after a good deadlifting session, your back would feel worked out and may feel some soreness the next day.

Is Deadlifting bad for your back?

No. Deadlifting is one of the best ways to strengthen your back. But if you don’t execute them in a proper way, you might end up getting injured.

How do you know if back pain is muscle or disc?

The muscle pain and the pain in the spinal disc feel different. While the muscle pain is uniform and somewhat bearable while the back pain in the spine would feel electric, sharp, and unbearable.

Final Thoughts

If making little changes in your routine and the way you lift can prevent the possible back pain you could get from performing deadlifts then there is no point in not doing that. And even after following all the preventive measures, if you ever get back pain, you need to take a rest from physical activity for some time. And there are a few exercises that could help you get rid of the pain.