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Young man using dumbbells for lifting weights.

Weightlifting and Back Pain

In sports, weightlifting is important for improving strength and power. If performed correctly, it is a safe and effective way to build muscle for improved sports performance. However, heavy lifting is often associated with back pain and it is important to know the source of this pain. Back pain while lifting can be caused by several things, including acute injury, core weakness, or incorrect form.

It is typical for athletes who are participating in a lifting program to experience muscular soreness. This typically occurs 24 hours after lifting and should subside within two to three days. Pain that occurs during a lift or is sharp and localized is more concerning. If the pain occurs suddenly, it could be a musculoskeletal problem.

One of the most common causes of acute back pain is a muscle strain. This can be caused by lifting a weight heavier than you are ready for or lifting more volume. Other relatively common, but more severe, causes of sharp pain are spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. These are two injuries of the back that involve fractures in the vertebrae. While the injury usually develops over time, the pain can sometimes present more suddenly. This type of fracture can cause pain in the low back and sometimes legs, which may increase with back extension and does not resolve in a few days. Disc herniations are a less common cause of pain in children but can occur when lifting. With a herniated disc, athletes may experience increased pain when bending forward or pain that extends from the back into the lower leg.

Another common cause of increased pain during lifting is core weakness. The inability to maintain a neutral spine during lifts, both from the ground and overhead, can put abnormal stresses on various body parts. Poorly developed core strength forces weaker muscles and ligaments to perform the lifts. This can also lead to compensatory motions which can be seen during various lifts. All of this together can increase pain.

If your athlete is experiencing pain during lifting, it is recommended they be seen by a medical professional. Schedule an appointment with CHKD's Sport Medicine physicians to be evaluated. If you have an athlete who is unfamiliar with lifting and would like to start, schedule a consultation with our exercise specialist team. CHKD exercise specialists can teach proper lifting technique and progressions to help prevent injury. Visit for more information.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.