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Pinched Nerves in Weightlifting

author image Peter Mitchell
Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.
Pinched Nerves in Weightlifting
Use proper technique when lifting dumbbells to avoid pinched neck nerves. Photo Credit XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images

When body tissue becomes inflamed, it can sometimes trap surrounding nerves. A pinched nerve might only cause you a short pain or twitch. However, in some cases you might experience severe pain. Pinched nerves in weightlifting are relatively common. The added pressure on the body and the tendency for some lifters to overload means that weightlifters are at increased risk of pinched nerves. Left untreated, some pinched nerves can cause serious health problems.


One of the more common areas for weightlifters to experience a pinched nerve is the lower back. You have over 50 main nerves connected to your spine, notes the National institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Putting stress on the back through weightlifting could cause a disk in your spine to bulge and press against one of these nerves. The same problem can trigger pain around the neck. In many cases, pain in the arms or legs is related to a pinched nerve in the neck or lower back.


Pinched nerves in weightlifting often result from poor lifting technique. The best lifting styles always put most pressure on your muscles, not your bones or spine. In particular, you should avoid moves that flatten or arch your back too far, according to the McKinley Health Center. The center also suggests a few back safety tips when lifting. For example, when doing leg curls or extensions, exercise one leg at a time to take the strain off the back. When lifting dumbbells, or doing similar lifting moves, tighten your abdomen to strengthen your back area before lifting.


Analgesics such as ibuprofen may be enough to control any initial pain for less serious pinched nerves from weightlifting. However, unless discomfort goes away quickly, you should visit a physician. She may prescribe additional pain relieving drugs or a corticosteroid injection to the affected area. In most cases, avoid drugs unless the pain is unbearable. A physical therapist may suggest some rehabilitation exercises for your injury. In the most severe cases, surgery to dislodge the nerve is an option.


Warm up carefully with a few stretches before any weightlifting sessions. Health Services at Columbia also suggests not lifting on consecutive days. Take a day off in between sessions to allow your body tissue to repair itself. It's also important to lift within your ability. Overloading by adding more weight than you can comfortably handle just strains your body and potentially leads to complications, such as a pinched nerve.


Symptoms of a pinched nerve in the lower back include pain when coughing, loss of bladder control and a feeling of weakness in the legs, according to the NINDS. In other areas, you may feel a twinge of pain when you move or even a dull throb. With any feelings of numbness, tingling or persistent pain, you should schedule a visit to your physician. In almost all cases with a pinched nerve, lifting more weights will trigger pain or discomfort.

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