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How to lift with lower back pain? (Or should I not?)

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I have a history of lower back pain and am curious about adding heavy weight lifting to my regimen. I am talking about squats, dead lifts, overhead press, and even kettlebell swings.


I was originally worried about these exercises because I have had a herniated disk in my low back. So it's pretty easy for me to throw out my back out if I am not careful lifting heavy objects. And if things get real out of hand, I can get shooting pain down my leg. 


But recently, I have been wondering if avoiding squats, dead lifts, etc is actually making my back weaker and more prone to back injury. 


FYI I currently exercise pretty regularly: cardio + core exercises (bird dogs, curl ups, plank and side plank) + body weight exercises.



- What are your thoughts about integrating these exercises into my regimen?

- How do you suggest I go about doing it do that I don't hurt myself?

- Should I stick with avoiding these exercises?



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Consult with your doctor first. If you don't like what they tell you, consult a doctor who specializes in athletics as they're less likely to just offhandedly dismiss weight lifting as dangerous.


After that, make sure your form is correct and as long as there's no pain you're probably fine. My opinion (supported by research, though I don't have sources handy) is that strength training done correctly is almost always beneficial, assuming there's no legitimate medical reason not to do it.

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Thanks, @calanthropy. Your advice is reasonable and appreciate your cautiousness giving advice when you don't know the specifics of my situation. FYI I don't have the best health insurance, so that's why I'm reaching out on forums first. 


Still, I'd love to hear if anyone else has had success doing heavy weight lifting after low back injury.

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You SHOULD lift heavy. But carefully. And supplement with a lot of core work. Building the supporting muscle around your injury will eventually protect you. Start slow. Get your form right by working with a coach who really knows what they're doing. Or check out Alan Thrall's form videos and similar YouTube resources. I'm a huge fan of how he breaks things down.


The easiest way to re-injure yourself is not to listen to your body. I'm super pregnant right now, so I've been getting a crash course in this recently. I rarely lift anything I can't do for 5 reps. (I deadlifted 215 for reps this morning! Whee!) So use your perceived effort to protect yourself. Maybe it's 5 reps, maybe its 3. Maybe it's feeling anything budge in your form making you cut a set short. Years ago, my limit on squats was was set by when my knees caved. I wouldn't add weight until I fixed it. In the deadlift, your spine curvature should not change mid-lift. Things like that are easy to get a feel for once you know the basics.


So yeah, lift away! Stabilize your core. Educate your form. And go slow. The second you go for a 1RM that turns you bright red and makes your spine adjust mid-lift you're tipping over the edge risk-wise. Do that later when you have experience under your belt.


EDIT: I would also add that learning to lift correctly in the gym means you're way less likely to hurt yourself moving a couch or something in day-to-day life :)

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