Most Common Muscle Injuries (Part 4 of 7)
By: Marylin Salgado
June 9, 2019
This is part 4 of a 7-part series blog. The focus will be injuries based on the 4 most popular weight lifting exercises:
- Bench Press
- Dead Lifts
- Military Press
Each blog will explain the part of the body affected, how each lift affects that muscle group and recovery time. Each blog will be written in its simplest form so you, the reader, can fully understand the material. This week I will be discussing injury caused to the Lumbar Spine.
What is the structure and function of the Lumbar Spine?
The lumbar spine, or lower back, is composed of 5 cylindrical bones, essentially forming the lower back spine. The lower back carries the weight of the upper body.
These muscles help rotate, flex, stabilize and extend the spine.
Why do injuries occur?
- Improper technique
- Not enough training time
- Not stretching before an exercise
- Ignoring pain or discomfort during a movement or lift
- Not stopping immediately during discomfort or feeling sharp pain
- Changing directions rapidly
- Repetitive overuse of the spine, or continuously doing one exercise movement for prolonged periods of time
Most common lifts and lumbar spine injury
- Squats – Squatting is probably one of the most effective exercises for strengthening muscles of your legs and glutes. If done incorrectly, then your lower back will suffer. You will feel everything form a sore back to back pain which will not allow you to move from a few days to a few weeks. At this point, it is more likely you have suffered an injury.
The squat is a tricky exercise and although very effective, it is also very dangerous if your body alignment is off or if the weights are not positioned correctly. Holding the bar in a narrow or wide position, upper shoulders to lower shoulders, squatting with the tip of your toes instead of your heels (which can definitely throw your balance off by making you tip forward), and squatting with weights that are over your limit; these can all cause an injury.
- Bench Press – You might think there is no way you can hurt your back doing this movement because your focus is your arms and pecs. Posture is everything with this lift. If you arch your back too much, perhaps because you are lifting beyond your limit, then yes, you can definitely injure your lower back. Leg position is really important with this lift and keeping your feet firmly on the ground will also help protect your back. Core strength is also very important and pulling your abs in during the movement will help protect the lower back.
- Dead Lifts – When executed correctly, this lift will work more muscles then probably any other lift you may do. But when done incorrectly, you can seriously injure your back by causing a sprain or a strain. Unlike the squat, you are not lowering your back in a sitting position, but bending forward. Much like the squat, you are using your lower back. Position is everything with this lift, as much as hand position and leg stance. Lifting to your limits and being mindful not to bend to far forward or use your toes to lift will also safe you from an injury.
- Military Press – This lift will give you some fabulous looking shoulders, but if done incorrectly, can wreak havoc on your lower back. If you arched your back during the lift, bend your elbows, or your shoulders roll forward, then you need to strengthen these muscles with much safer movements before your try the military press. When the lift is executed poorly, your back will be the one who will suffer the consequences. Ignoring this may end up causing some serious back injury, such as bulging discs or debilitating back pain.
Recovering from injury
- Stop activity for a few days
- Apply heat or ice to the injured area (s)
- Take over the counter Tylenol or Ibuprofen with your MD’s advise
- Apply a pillow between your legs and sleep in fetal position. For some this minimizes pain and provides comfort during resting periods.
- If the injury is moderate or severe, then stop all exercise and weightlifting activities.
For severe cases or when at home remedies are not enough to heal a back injury, you may have to visit your PCP or you might be referred to an Orthopedist or Orthopedic Surgeon to review your case and further treat your injury. You might also need physical therapy during this time to speed the healing process.
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