Motion Stability's Blog


When Doing Squats, How Do I Avoid A Stiff Back? by charlestlee

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Brian Yee PT, MPhty, OCS, FAAOMPT

If your squatting is causing your low back to feel stiff it indicates that either your form, the amount of load or repetition, or the sequence of muscle contractions are incorrect and not safe for your back. With your form – there are many proper ways to squat, but people we see that have back pain or stiffness after lifting typically let the back arch or round too much. It may be the angle your squatting at, but it may also mean that your spine is more structurally unstable than you may think it is. Have a qualified practitioner observe your form to look for any inefficiencies.

In regards to load or repetition – even if your form is perfect eventually your back can wear out due to excessive weight or overdoing the number of times that you squat. I would recommend finding out the repetition, sets, or weight that you feel like you back just begins to stiffen. Next time you do squats, do less than that so your back does not stiffen. As you improve your form and the proper muscle sequence you should notice that you can increase your weight and repetitions gradually without worsening your back stiffness.

Most importantly – back stiffness can occur with squats due to improper muscle sequence. With a squat, the trunk and back muscles should all activate to provide stability to your spine. The muscles that should provide the most power and movement in the squat are your gluteal / buttock muscles. The primary joint that moves in the squat should be the hip – which is controlled by the glute muscles. But what we see are patients that use their knees or back more – causing the quadriceps or back muscles to be used more. This develops an improper sequence of muscle firing patterns and ultimately places more stress on your back as your form and coordination of movement is inefficient. You should contact a skilled health practitioner such as a Physical Therapist to assess the strength and control of your hip, back, and leg muscles if your back stiffens while squatting.

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How Is Rehabilitation Used to Treat Neck and Back Pain? by charlestlee

In Physical Therapy we treat neck and back pain by the following interventions:

1. Examination: Take a thorough subjective and physical examination to determine the causes and severity of pain. The examination helps determine what specific interventions need to be done. Each patient is unique in the medical history and interventions should also be individualized to the patient’s progress.

2. Reduce Pain: Especially in more severe pain complaints, it is important to reduce the symptoms to allow for the patient to simply feel less pain. This can include manual therapy to decrease muscle spasms, restricted joint mobility, or decrease nerve irritation. Modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation and traction can also be used.

3. Restore Motion: As pain decreases, it is the goal for rehabilitation specialists to restore patients back to their functional activities. Mobility / range of motion is important to allow the patient to move again. Manual therapy, exercises including stretches and stability training, posture and gait/walking education are all necessary to improve the patient.

4. Improve Stability and Strength: In the neck and back there are key muscles that are designed to stabilize the spine, while others provide power and torque. In chronic pain conditions, it is important to improve the efficiency of muscle function rather than just ‘get people stronger’. Such muscles as the longus colli in the neck, shoulder blade / scapular stabilizers – such as the lower trapezius, or trunk stabilizers -including the transversus abdominis, multifidus, obliques, and gluteal muscles are all necessary to provide proper stability for dynamic function. Rehabilitation specialists have strategies to improve the stability of these muscles.

5. Function / Sports Specific Training: Once basic stability has been established, it is important to provide the patient the tools to return to full work, functional, and sports-related activities.