Back Pain After Lifting Heavy Objects

Words by Schareen Sison
January 24, 2022

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5 Minute Read

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5 Minute Read
Words by Schareen Sison
January 24, 2022

Working out is a great way to boost your mood and lose some weight. However, not everyone can enjoy this because of the problems that you may develop due to working out or by lifting heavy items.

One of the most common problems is muscle pain. However, in some cases, it can be more than that.

Can a good back workout bring you pain? It sounds weird, but sometimes it can. Back pain from exercising isn’t something uncommon when you grind it out in the gym.

Everyone who has ever worked out knows this feeling. To prevent it from happening, you need to know what causes it.

Why do you have back pain after lifting heavy objects?

A sharp pain generated from your back usually means your back muscles have been strained. The common causes for straining your back muscles are lifting heavy weights and lifting weights with improper posture (bending in an unusual position). Straining your back muscles will generate pain usually around the lower back area only.

The causes of the strain in the muscles of your back are commonly one of the following:

  • A twisting motion, like what you see golfers do
  • Lifting weights that are too heavy
  • Overstretching the back or stretching it too far
  • Improper posture and mechanics when lifting weights

If you continue to do these activities, it will make your situation worse and damage the structures that support your back such as your muscles, connective tissues, ligaments, and blood vessels.

Even the smallest damages like a tear in the discs between the vertebrae can affect your back’s nerves and cause inflammation and bothersome pain.

Related: How You Can Optimize Your Workspace When You Have Back Pain

How is back pain diagnosed?

For most people, it's easy to pinpoint the activity or injury that caused their back pain.

Your doctor will ask several questions about your symptoms, including when you first noticed them and which activities tend to make your back pain worse.

Your doctor will take your symptoms into account when making a diagnosis and deciding on a course of treatment.

For example, your doctor may recommend that you have further tests if your back pain is extreme and is causing other symptoms, such as a numb sensation down the leg area or inability to control your bladder. However, if your doctor says it’s only a back strain, they may not recommend imaging as a treatment option.

Imaging tests can sometimes reveal tumors or other causes of back pain, such as damaged discs. Here are some examples of imaging tests that doctors may recommend:

  • CT scan
  • X-ray
  • MRI

 If your back pain isn’t better after two weeks, or if it gets worse, you should call your doctor to find out the next step of treatment.

After you hurt your back, the first thing you should do is rest. Resting will help your body heal and get rid of the inflammation. In addition to that, the pain will most likely limit your movements and daily activities after the injury.

When recovering from a back injury, it's important to listen to your body and not overdo it. For instance, you may wish to try the following tips:

  • Apply cloth-wrapped ice packs to the area. Don’t apply the ice directly to your skin. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add a few ibuprofen or naproxen sodium pills to your medicine cabinet—just in case.  Acetaminophen can provide temporary relief from pain, but it is not an anti-inflammatory medication.
  • To relieve back pain, try using pillows or lower back supports that take some pressure off of your back. You can roll up a towel and place it on your lower back's curve. This is known as a lumbar roll.

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  • Use the lumbar roll when sleeping or place a pillow between the legs if you are sleeping sideways. These positions reduce the stress put onto your back. Sleeping on your stomach can make back pain worse, so avoid that position.

Consult your physician about whether chiropractic care could be beneficial for your condition.

When should I get back to moving?

When resting from back pain, you may be tempted to move too soon. However, you should wait at least one to three days before resuming the activity. This is to increase blood flow and prevent stiffness in the area.

Taking slow, easy stretches and walking for 10 minutes at a time can help alleviate back pain. Some examples include the knee-chest posture, in which you pull your knees into your chest, or the straight leg crunch, in which you pull your legs toward your torso.

Related: Stretches For Lower Back Pain To Do Daily

Certain exercise regimens may benefit your back, while others can exacerbate existing pain. Refrain from activities such as:

  • Lifting heavy loads
  • Bending forward at waist level
  • Twisting movement of the spine

In addition to home remedies and self-help, your doctor may suggest other options.

Here are some examples:

  • Physical therapy
  • Better pain medications, anti-inflammatory meds, or muscle relaxants
  • Steroid injections

Occasionally, doctors recommend surgery to treat injuries. Surgery can be an effective way of treating back pain that is worsened by an injury.

How to Prevent Back Pain

Strengthening your back and abdominal muscles can help improve your posture and reduce the chance that you’ll injure your back.

Activities that can promote both flexibility and strength can help protect your back, including yoga, tai chi, and Pilates.

Using lumbar support is also an effective way to prevent back pain or to speed up recovery. It makes sure you’re sitting in an optimal position to avoid inconveniences from happening.

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To prevent back pain, you may want to wear protective equipment when you engage in physical activity to minimize the possibility of injury. 

If you lift weights, you might consider using a weightlifting belt or back brace. If a waistline is not important (e.g., if you're doing aerobics), try wearing form-fitting back support that provides extra cushioning.

With many sizes and options to choose from, it's easy to find the type of support that works best for your body and your workout routine.

Certified personal trainers and physical therapists can give you helpful advice on correct posture and exercises to avoid injury.

Good posture is key to preventing back injuries, so be sure to hold your back straight when lifting heavy things. Keep these in mind:

  • Your arms and elbows must be close to your body as much as possible
  • It is essential to bend your knees and lift by using your legs, not with the muscles in your back.
  • Never twist your back when you are lifting weights.
  • Avoid unnecessary movements.
  • When it is too heavy, rest.

Always use good sense in determining the weight of elevating or loading items. If you think a load is too heavy, it probably is too heavy.

You can ask someone else to assist you with tasks, like carrying items. You can also use tools to make objects easier to carry, such as using a cart or a special carrier for groceries.

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