Resolving Pain - Part 2: The Low back

For this next part in our Resolving Pain series, we'll take a look at the low back.

Specifically, we’re looking at complaints caused by improper mechanics during back squats and deadlifting.

The low back (lumbar spine) is even more complex than the knee.

It functions as the keystone of the spine, is part of the stabilizing core, and is one of the connections to the lower appendicular skeleton (lower extremities).

All of these factors mean one thing: an immense amount of force is distributed on this part of your back.

Now the problem is, our society has developed poor posture habits. And we’ve forgotten how to move.

Poor spine function, inactive hip musculature, and faulty upper extremity positioning are the three things we as chiropractors see as the main issues in regard to weightlifting.

In the video above the squatter is highly dependent on the low back to perform the back squat. They have inactive glutes and no stabilization in the low back.

First, lets look at poor spine function. In the world of mobility it is hard to turn off the switch and think your lower back would need something other than mobility.

Unlike the thoracic spine, our lumbar spine is in dire need of stability as opposed to mobility.

In order to stabilize your low back you need to stabilize your core. The core is composed of four main components (low back musculature like the lumbar paraspinals and quadratus lumborum, or QL, abdominal musculature, pelvic floor musculature and the diaphragm).

A simple way to activate and stabilize the core and in turn the low back is seen below.

It is also then wise to incorporate some full spine range of motion with this stabilization.

Another issue with the squat in the above video is the inactivity of the glutes (sound familiar?). We discussed the issue with inactive glutes when looking at the knee.

Inactive hip musculature can affect so many different parts of the body. With the squat, you should be firing the glutes to sit down. Then, from there the glutes should again fire back up and explode into terminal extension to reach the top of the squat.

The video below is a great example of glute activation exercises followed by the form we should all strive for.

Here's how a good squat should look.

Remember, the low back is not only in a reciprocal relationship with the lower extremities but also with the upper extremities.

To understand this relationship we’ll look at the deadlift. Reminder: without proper glute activation too many forces will be delivered to the low back.

There are significant ramifications for improper shoulder girdle activation. In order to reduce unnecessary strain on the low back, it is important to properly load the posterior shoulder chain.

Long story short, load the scapula into retraction and depression paired with external rotation of the Humerus. The muscles required for this are the three rotator cuff (RTC) muscles that perform external rotation in concert with the rhomboids and Latissumus Dorsi (Lats) to retract and depress the shoulder.

By doing so the upper torso will be “locked” and stable for the lower extremities to finish off the work.

Here's what a good deadlift looks like.

We hope this helps with your lifting form! Function and form need to be top priority in the world of weight lifting.

What are your experiences with squat form? Leave comments or questions below. Look for our next post in March when we discuss neck complaints we treat regularly.