Sounds like a bold statment, doesn't it? And completely contradictory to typical advice on low back pain. But it is true! Personally, deadlifting was a key component to relieving the back pain I dealt with.
Here's the short version of a long story - I was having painful low back pain exacerbations every 6 months that caused difficulty taking off my shoes, standing, sitting, walking, and even sleeping. The one thing that I can point to that stopped that recurrent back pain was heavy deadlifts. As long as I stay consistent with heavy lifting, the back pain is absent, or minimal at very worst.
Why? Heavy lifting fixes things!
Nearly everyone will deal with low back pain at some point in their life. There are many reasons for back pain but one consistent finding is poor tolerance to managing loads - the body has not been conditioned to accept stressors, therefore even low stressors become disastrous and unreconcilable. To make it worse, once the back pain is present, the body then goes into a "protective mode" and changes movement patterns and quality.
It is a cascade of bad movement and pain that will not resolve itself unless you take action.
Although low back pain is very common, we don't know what action to take, so we just push through the pain blindly on our own.
I know I did. I thought that I just had to deal with the pain. But, this is when deadlifting for low back pain is so effective. It is a great way to assess and correct how you move, whether pre- or post- pain.
Caveat- There are 3 steps in rehab. 1 Alleviate the pain. 2 Fix the underlying cause. 3 Plan for the future. Deadlifting is great for steps 2 & 3. At times, step 1 has to be completed before you can add deadlifting - this was the journey I had to take. So if you need help getting the pain under control, schedule a Physiotherapy Evaluation and we can get you started.
Although there are more reasons, the following are the top 5 reasons I implement deadlifs when helping resolve low back pain and why I will always continue to complete deadlifts for my own back pain management program.
Disassociation is being able to move one area of the body without moving another part. For instance, can you raise your arm without shrugging your shoulders? Sounds easy, but, when we look closely, these small compensatory movements become apparent and extremely common.
Everyday, we complete large, compound movements. When we pick something off the ground, we move the ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, and neck. All the individual muscles and joints are moving together to perform one task. Each joint has its job and everything should work well together.
The problem comes when one area doesn't do its job. When we cannot disassociate, one region of the body generally starts taking over for another area. One works too little and another works too much. The area that works too much is generally the area that starts having pain.
To fix that, learn to disassociate those movements. In this example, learn to move the hips while keeping the back still.
The key movement in deadlifting is the hip hinge - moving the hips without moving the back (disassociating the hip from the back). Because of this, it is a great way to learn hip disassociation. It teaches the hip muscles to lift a load without the low back muscles kicking in, and it teaches the low back joints to stay stabile while the hip joint is moving.
"Use it or lose it".
You've heard that one, right. Well, it is true!
Our lives typically involve limited motion. We sit, walk, stand, and sleep. If this is all the movement we do, mobility will start to decrease until we are stiff, tight, and can no longer get use the full range of joint movement.
Deadlifts help maintain our end range of motion. the Thoracic Spine has to be straight. Hips need to have considerable movement. Hamstrings, hip flexors, and shoulder muscles are required to work at the end range of motion.
Let's be honest - the hamstring muscles are neglected. Hamstring strains are common and it is generally because these muscles are undertrained! When done correctly, deadlifts target the hamstrings. there is considerable research that shows adding a Hamstring strengthening program reduces injury rates in competitive athletes.
If it were only for hamstring health, deadlifts would be beneficial.
But it doesnt stop there.
Gluteal muscle weakness is a key factor in both hamstring strains and low back pain. the Gluteus Maximus is a strong muscle, but it is not always used to its potential. When limited, two things happen. First, the hamstrings (again, undertrained!!) work harder and may become strained. Second, the low back tries to take over and then works harder. The low back muscles are small. They're great at controlling the spine, but absolutely terrible when trying to move the legs. When asked to do too much, they quickly become injured.
These are 3 of the many reasons deadlifting is effective in resolving back pain. Although deadlifting for low back pain seems daunting at first, it can be a great implementation to your rehab programming. Everyone (few exceptions) should be doing deadlifts or a modification of deadlifts.
Keep reading how deadlifts can fix low back pain here - Fix back pain with deadlifting Part 2