Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates


3 Common Weightlifting Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Weight-bearing exercise is one of the best things for your body. Not only does weightlifting help to support muscle health and bone development, but it provides a workout that reduces your body’s response to stress triggers. Done properly, weightlifting can be the gift that keeps on giving for preventing chronic pain and health problems.

However, people who are new to weightlifting can make some mistakes during workouts and recovery that lead to lasting musculoskeletal injuries. These injuries will restrict your range of motion, reducing your ability to complete workouts in the future. They can also compromise your spinal health.

Learn about three common weightlifting injuries and what you can do to prevent them.

  1. Herniated Discs

You’ve probably heard someone tell you to lift with your legs, not your back. The reason why you shouldn’t lift with your back is because it stresses the spine.

Your spine is made of several mobile components called vertebrae that make it possible for you to bed and twist with ease. However, these small components are not powerhouse muscle groups that are designed for lifting heavy loads. They instead give you mobility so that other areas of your body can do the work. They are also there to protect your spinal cord.

Between each vertebra is a small disc. These discs are cushiony shock absorbers that help reduce wear and tear on your spine. However, when they are unduly stressed, the discs herniate. This occurs when the softer, jelly interior of the disc is forcefully pushed out into the tougher exterior of the structure. As a result, the disc becomes painful and can’t perform as it should.

Lifters are most likely to experience herniation in areas where the spine is less stable: the neck or the lower back. The upper back is stabilized by the presence of strong muscles and your rib cage. The lower back and the neck do not have that type of structural support, giving you the ability to be more flexible in your movements.

When a disc herniates, it causes nerve pain in other areas of the body. You’ll experience back or neck pain, but you’ll also experience numbness or sharp pains in your arms or legs when turning over or when trying to turn from side to side.

Lifters injure spinal discs when they bend at the lower back when lifting loads off the ground. They injure their neck, or cervical spine, when holding loads incorrectly across the shoulders when trying to lift without a neutral head position.

When doing deadlifts and squats, have someone present to correct your form. To help keep your neck neutral, especially when making twisting movements with your torso. Ease slowly into heavier loads, and never try to lift so much that you have to compromise your form in order to stabilize the load itself.


  1. Knee Injuries

The knee is an amazing joint. Knees provide stability and flexibility in your leg. The combined stability and flexibility, however, is what can make them prone to injury if you are not careful. If you lift with your knees bent too far forward, you push the joint itself too far forward, which can result in ligament tears.

When you lift with a locked knee, you risk damaging the patella. And when you try to lift with your knee slightly bend to the side (a direction your knee is not supposed to travel), you risk tearing or dislocating the joint.

Lifters can prevent knee injuries by lifting with the knees behind the toes whenever they bend the leg. Also, a focus on even training is essential. If you overtrain your quadriceps but do not train your hamstrings, the tightness of the overbalanced muscle can actually pull the patella of alignment.

Make sure your training regimen also has rest days and days when you focus on flexibility. You should add gentle exercise, such as yoga or swimming, to help relax muscles that are tight from training.


  1. Shoulder Tears

Your shoulder can also show some strain if you are not careful about your lifting routine. You can damage your rotator cuff, tear ligaments, or cause joint specific injuries, such as bursitis. Shoulder injuries are common in lifting because many weight combinations have you pushing or pulling weight above your head.

When the pressure of those movements is placed on the shoulder joint instead of on the muscle groups in the arms and upper back, eventually your shoulder will literally feel the strain.

You can harm your shoulder when doing pull-ups without proper form, shoulder press without a good stance, bench press with too much weight, or even weighted exercise classes with repeated motions.

To prevent shoulder injury, ease slowly into overhead movements. Carefully complete each set. Don’t hold weights behind your head when it requires that you extend your arms beyond the joint. Do low repetitions with high weights or high repetitions with low weights, but don’t extend repetitions and weights together, as this causes overuse injuries.

For more information on preventing and treating spine and joint injuries from lifting weights, contact us at SW Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates.

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