T Nation

Lower Back Pain & Powerlifting Squats

Hi all,

I’ve been nagging with some lower back issue, which mostly flares up during squats. I had a herniated a disc (with sciatica) a couple of years ago, but managed to get back to my pre-injury levels with good rehab and some form corrections. Having said that, this means there is a slight back pain history.

The part I wanted to highlight was that low bar seems much better on my lower back than highbar, which seems counterintuitive. The pain I get is also very specific, I do get a sharp-ish pain directly after re-racking the weight (not during the actual squat). It seems that the pain is triggered when releasing the load from the spine. It only last a second or so and then it seems fine. The pain is less when I take the weight off my back very slowly, i.e. the bar is racked, but I slowly release the weight off my back. The pain seems to be on my left SI area, but it could also be where my herniated disc was (which bulged out the left side as well).

A belt helps, but I think it mostly masks the pain. Similar (but to a much lesser extent) for deadlifts, Sumo seems more stressful on the lower back than conventional despite the much more upright torso.

I had an almost 3 week break from heavy lifting over the holiday period, but the issue remains the same.

Other than that, there is absolutely no impact/pain in any other movements or activities, also outside the gym. There is also no sciatica or any hints of it.

I was wondering if anyone had similar pain patterns, especially the sharp(ish) pain just AFTER deloading the spine.

My back pain is different then yours: instability/loading intolerance driven by shitty movement patterns and glute inaction/weakness/imbalance but I’ll drop some thoughts given I’m on the back end of half a year of successful rehab/rebuild. Still asking for others experiences might not be helpful because your back pain presentation is unique to you everything from your anatomy to the postures you assume in day to day life e.g. student who sits lots

I’d recommend reading Stuart McGills work on back pain. You can see pirate yourself copies of his book if you’re a criminal. It will guide you

Going off Dr McGills principles:

The exact anatomical structure that responsible might be nice to know but unless the injury fits into a typical pattern confirmed by diagnostic testing and imaging and even then the best approach will still be a movement based one.

Early on in the process stuff like reducing aggravating factors like you’ve listed to desensitise to pain. Avoid positions/postures, loading and forces that are triggers. Do more of what eases pain: walking, lying, compression, traction, core stability retraining etc. depend on your own individual presentation.

Are both of your feet directly under you as you rerack? Are you staying braced as you lower the bar?

Or are you stepping forward with one foot, leaning way over and dumping the bar back into the hooks with a limp mid section?

Thanks that sounds like a good idea, as it might be a very interesting read in general. I have made quite a few habbit changes already since I herniated a disc a few years ago. I have an office job with 8-10h in front of several screens and I used to slouch in my chair. We now have sit-stand desks for a few years now and it is a great relief.

I am stepping forward slightly with one foot, but normally stay braced until the load is off. I will try to keep my feed parallel and directly under the bar, but I am not sure this is actually the problem. I’ve posted this [formcheck](Highbar Squat Form Check 90% of 5RM) video a while ago, but this is typically how my squat and re-rack looks like.

Thanks for both replies.

Nice. Severe cases may well be 24/7/52 jobs but I’m lucky to have moderate only

You are turning it into a bit of a Good Morning coming out of the bottom, but I don’t think that that’s the problem in particular. It’s hard to see from the angle in your video, but it looks like your hips kick right on the ascent, which could definitely do it. The low bar squat changes the lever on the lift, decreasing your low back and erector load and thus being easier on the area.