Injuries from Deadlifting: Prevention and Recovery
The deadlift is one of the most efficient and useful weightlifting exercises. A compound exercise, deadlifting helps your entire body become stronger and fitter, rather than simply isolating one or two muscles. However, if your posture is not quite correct when you lift weights -- and especially during a deadlift -- you could easily injure your back.
Neck or back pain from deadlifting is often caused by a bulging disk, which means that the cushion between your vertebrae extends farther than it should. This type of pain can also be caused by a herniated disk, which means that the inner portion of the disk bulges past the outer portion of the disk. While disk problems are most common in the lower back, using improper form when weightlifting can lead to both neck and back injuries.
If you feel pain in your neck or back during or after deadlifting, a herniated or bulging disk may be the cause. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, disks are your body's natural cushioning in between the bones, or vertebrae, of your spine, preventing your bones from painfully rubbing together. If you do not use proper form when deadlifting a heavy weight, the uneven pressure on your spine can cause the disks to stick out or bulge, putting pressure on your nerves.
If you do become injured, it may take a month or more for your back to heal. During this time, stop deadlifting or performing any strenuous exercises that aggravate your back and increase your pain. Stretch gently, and continue to be moderately active; being inactive may actually prolong your recovery time. If your neck or back pain worsens or does not go away, you should visit your doctor, who may need to repair your spine or prescribe pain medication.
You can help prevent deadlifting from causing disk problems by using proper form and by performing specific exercises to strengthen your core and back. According to the American Council of Exercise, you need strong core muscles to stabilize your spine and prevent injuries; practice a specific routine that includes exercises like planks and V-sits and yoga poses like downward facing dog and bird dog to target these muscles.
The most important step you can take to prevent a bulging or herniated disk is simply to make certain that you maintain proper form -- and in particular, proper back posture -- throughout the deadlift. While deadlifting, you should keep your chest lifted, with your head and spine in a straight line throughout the entire repetition. As you grip the barbell on the floor and begin to stand up, you should lift with your legs and hips, not your back. Keep the bar close to your body, and keep your shoulder blades down, with a straight -- not rounded -- spine.
If you are not an experienced weightlifter, you should seek a qualified personal trainer or coach to help you learn how to deadlift properly. Many beginning exercisers skip this step, and eventually suffer for it. Even if you are an experienced weightlifter, you should rely on a training partner to let you know if your form begins to suffer as you grow tired. No matter what your experience level, be careful not to attempt to lift more weight than you can manage safely. You will see better results, and a far lower risk of injury, if you lift less weight with perfect form.