Back “Injury/Irritation” VS “Stiffness”

Back “injury/irritation” vs. “stiffness”

defining some of the differences

This is always an important distinction to discuss when it comes to lifting weights.  Many people often think that back stiffness is inherently “bad” and that it means you did something wrong.  When in fact it often can be a symbol that you challenged yourself adequately.  This is a generalization of course, not everyone is the same.  So let's go through some differences to help define them. 

  • On a scale of 1-10 (10 being so painful it's hard to move or breathe) 

    • 1-5: Most likely stiffness, nothing to be concerned with.

    • 6-10: Irritation/possible injury (8-10) that should be addressed.

  • Tightness that can be relieved through heat and gentle rolling. 

    • Stiffness

  • Tightness continues to return DESPITE significant efforts to mobilize (rolling, stretching, heat)

    • Irritation or slight injury possible 

  • Tightness that resolves after a day or two on its own.

    • Stiffness

  • Referral pain when moving (a sharp **zing** when moving).

    • Irritation or injury possible 

What causes stiffness? 

  • Lets use the deadlift as an example because this often tends to be the one that causes tightness that people are concerned about.  When you deadlift your leg muscles do the majority of the work (Glutes, Hamstrings, quads).  HOWEVER in order to keep your pelvis in the right position (what helps keep your back flat) smaller spinal stabilizers have to work harder also.  “Stiffness” is the result of a muscle having to work harder than its used to, which is why stiffness is so bad when you first start out difficult exercise, or lift heavier but starts to become less and less prevalent over time.  These little muscles work the same way.  You can have perfect form but if you work these guys a little above what they are used to they will get a little stiff.  That will go away with continuing to challenge yourself safely!  Don't fret from some tightness, use the above couple guidelines and if you want some more I’d be happy to offer some others!  Keep strong!

Coach Adam

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