While in the gym yesterday I was watching a teenager doing the ever so popular squat lift. Research is showing that this weight lifting exercise is putting dangerous stress onto the spine. Most personal trainers and athletes blame spinal fractures on using improper form and technique but these studies are showing even “textbook” lifting technique is harming the spine.
Dr. John McClellan, MD and his team of researchers Researchers took x-rays of 20 athletes in their 20’s at various positions in the squat lift. The back squat, where the bar is across the upper back and shoulders was the most troubling. The slope of the sacrum at the base of the spine went to 68 degrees during the back squat versus 58 degrees doing a front squat. The “horizontalization” of the sacrum during the squat lift makes those working out highly damaging causing fractures in the lumbar spine. The highest risk is for teenagers whose spines are still not fully developed.
The squat lift is very common with coaches and trainers of young athletes. Just this past year I had a teenage football player come in with severe low back pain. As a football player, this lifting technique is commonly used because of its effectiveness at strengthening muscles.
Stress fractures are very hard to heal once they occur. Michael Reed, PhD and physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery Spine and Sport in Jupiter, Fla says, “The problem is, it can be very risky. Even the best form will not protect you.”
The pars fractures that are most likely to occur have less than a 2% likelihood of healing. Eventually degenerative disc problems and chronic low back pain will develop.
Coaches and trainers need to be made more aware of the dangers of the squat lift. Educating them on the risks and more safe alternative exercises is a must. Caution needs to be taken while doing this and other exercises.
As a Freehold NJ chiropractor that does a lot of work with athletes of all levels, I guide my patients on proper lifting. I advise exercises to strengthen and stabilize the spine. Therapeutic stretching techniques are also important in preventing damage to the spine. Chiropractic adjustments help optimize range of motion of the joints and reduce pressure on the discs. We can help you get the most of your exercise while reducing risks of injury.