In this post, you’ll learn what causes lower back pain during or after a workout. And what tools you can use to get you relief as fast as possible.
Proper exercise is required to keep your muscles strong and functional. Without exercise, I wouldn’t be here writing this today. Strength training helped me recover from chronic muscle pain, and rebuild my health back.
But, exercise can also trigger pain or make it worse if you lack guidance and make mistakes (And hey… this is what I’m here to help you with!)
I want to start by answering a very common question: Should I exercise if I have back pain? And the answer is…if it’s not an acute injury that happened in the last 3-4 days, you should start moving. Sports acute injuries usually start to heal after 3 days, and it’s recommended not to rest for too long to avoid stiffness (1).
Starting with low impact exercises is the best way to ease into working out. Find a low impact activity that you enjoy. Whether that’s walking, swimming, working out at home with easy bodyweight exercises. Do what moves you, regardless of how “easy” it may seem. Some days, I just do simple yoga flows at home.
Now let’s start by listing all the possible reasons why you’re getting lower back pain after a workout
Full disclosure: this post contains Amazon affiliate links. I only mention products I personally use and recommend…and if you purchase from Amazon using my affiliate link, I get a small commission. You won’t pay more!
You’re Not Warming Up Properly
When I say to warm-up properly, I don’t mean to jog on the treadmill for 5 or 10 minutes. A proper warm-up routine should include foam rolling the tight muscles that may inhibit proper movement… And, activating the weak muscle stabilizers that’ll help you avoid injury and pain. You have no idea how many people start their workouts without warming up.
I love incorporating fabric resistance bands to activate the gluteus medius and the gluteus maximus. These are the muscles you certainly want fully engaged before lifting weights or doing any high-intensity workout.
If you’re wondering how to warm-up your legs properly, here’s a full back-friendly leg workout that takes you through my warm-up routine.
Make sure you are also practicing deep belly breathing during your warm-ups. This ensures you’re not shutting down your core. Diaphragmatic breathing will help you easily tap into your deep core muscles. It should be a daily practice to avoid stress-related muscle pain.
You’re Over-Loading Your Body Too Soon
A common cause of lower back pain at the gym is overloading the body when it’s not prepared or ready to handle the load. When you enter the gym, you need to leave your ego at the door and be prepared to start with the basics.
Start with the bodyweight versions of all the weighted exercises you’re doing that day. Slowly increase the weight up while you monitor how your body is responding to that added load. Watch when you’re starting to feel discomfort. Stay below that weight. If you’re feeling discomfort lifting 30 lbs dumbbells, drop to 25 lbs. You can always increase the intensity of the exercises by adding another repetition or another set.
Remember, pain is never okay during exercise. Push beyond it and you may injure yourself. Always start with the basics and stay below the pain triggering load. This will help you progress safely without overloading your back.
You’re Not Performing Exercises With Proper Form
If you’re not moving right and performing the exercises with proper form, you’ll be placing load and tension on your joints and spine. Sometimes, we want to try a new exercise or participate in interval training. This can cause you to rush through a series of exercises without focusing on form. I recommend you slow down the exercises so you can control the movement… (Yes, it sucks if you love HIIT but it’s not for forever)
This is why I don’t recommend high-intensity interval training or high impact exercises like jumping squats or jumping lunges. Especially when you’re recovering from an injury or experiencing muscular pain.
Make sure you learn how to perform the exercises well, and film yourself doing a few repetitions to see if you’re doing them right or compensating, which brings me to my next point.
Watching yourself do an exercise is a very enlightening experience. When I started my YouTube channel and editing my own videos, I was catching all sorts of things I was doing while exercising (including funny facial expressions). (Probably why It took me forever to launch my Youtube channel.)
When you’re observing your form, you’re going to see your back rounding, arching, or shifting. Maybe your knee moving inwards or outwards… Your hips rotating. Take note when compensating is happening. And by the way, my program Piriformis Control takes you through this step-by-step. You’ll know exactly how you are compensating and what to do to fix it.
You’ve Putting Too Much Tension On The Lumbar Spine
I want to talk about an important point here that’s different from what I talked about earlier (loading your back). And that is, doing exercises that bring the weights further away from the body’s center of gravity. Exercises like shoulders lateral raises or kettlebell swings…
You want to keep the weights (load) as close to your body as possible. More pressure is placed on the spine when moving the load away from your body center. If you need to do an exercise like the shoulder lateral raises, bend at the elbow instead of keeping your arm straight.
Getting Relief From Back Pain After Working Out
Now that we’ve covered what causes back pain after working out, I want to suggest a few recovery tools to help you get relief..so you can get back to ther gym and workout again! (just make sure to follow the tips above)
- Spoonk mat: I love the Spoonk mat. It’s an acupressure mat that will help you relax. It releases tension from the muscles and helps reduce inflammation. I love using it after the gym because it relaxes my muscles and nervous system and I easily fall asleep. This is the only acupressure mat I’ve used and I love it so much. I’ve had it for over 2 years now and still use it. (have the full and travel size mats)
- Muscle release: Make sure you’re releasing your hip muscles. If you do a lot of squats or lunges at the gym, you should spend some time restoring your hips. I have a PSOAS release tutorial, a TFL release tutorial, and a latissimus dorsi tutorial as well.
- Epson salt bath: Another great way to relax your muscles and nervous system. Epson salt can help sore muscles and stiff joints recover faster (2).
- Sleep: If you don’t sleep enough or sleep well, you won’t recover properly. Again all the above suggestions will help you improve your sleep. Try to go to bed shortly after 10 pm. I use a great app called “Blue Light Filter” that neutralizes the blue light from your phone.
Hey! My name is Sofia and I’m here to help you eliminate lower back pain and piriformis syndrome without spending years in pain stuck in temporary fixes. Click here to learn more about me and how I can help you…