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I hurt my lower back doing a failed deadlift attempt. Nothing terrible, but I feel a mild pain there.

When can I go back to weight lifting?

Similarly, my hand is sore (from a poorly done impact...) when I grip hard - do I have to hold back on weight lifting?

In general, how do you know if you're better sitting it out, or are ready to go back to the gym?

UPDATE: My hand injury was punching a wall too hard. My middle knuckle took the impact. Not enough to break the skin - not even a visible bruise. But my hand became sore, especially when gripping something, for a few days. That's mainly gone.

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Can you elaborate on the impact and the hand soreness? My first suspicion is a hairline fracture, actually. –  JohnP Jul 17 '12 at 22:30
    
@JohnP: I updated the post with info on the hand. What makes you suspect a fracture?! Can I ask on what medical info you're basing that? –  S. Robert James Jul 18 '12 at 5:40
    
Bones in the hand are easily fractured from impacts, and then when you grip, the muscles and tendons exert pressure on the bones, which if you have a fracture can cause pain. One rough test if you suspect a fracture is to hold the hand out flat, fingers straight, and rap on the end of the finger with a finger from your other hand. If the taps produce pain, you likely have a fracture. This test is VERY rough/non diagnostic, it's more a "well, probably" kind of test. Since you punched a wall, I'm even more inclined to think small fracture, but if it's not displaced it usually heals on its own. –  JohnP Jul 18 '12 at 14:10

2 Answers 2

I can only say what's worked for me.

Skip deadlifts (and squats, back-extensions, and anything that works your lower back), until it feels "good". You'll know what this feels like. The mild pain will be gone. In the mean time, you can foam roll, stretch, or just rest.

If you feel good, but still aren't sure it's time to go back to the gym, start your workout with a very low weight, and work up slowly from there in increments towards 20% below your previous working weight. If anything feels weird, just stop and take a few more days off.

In general, you will just have to learn to listen to your own body, and to distinguish DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness, which shouldn't require any changes to your workout) from injury (which demands rest, or adjusting your workouts).

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Listen to your body. If it's general soreness, keep on going. If it's an injury, even a small one, stop until it's gone. I like that approach. These are both injuries and not soreness, though minor ones. I felt the pull on the failed deadlift immediately. –  S. Robert James Jul 18 '12 at 5:41

Sore is a bit too general, and the advice will differ based on the type of pain:

  • Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): general soreness experienced when you increase the intensity, volume, or type of exercise. Can be ignored and will generally go as you train.
  • Back pump: feels like the lower back is pumped up. This can be very uncomfortable, but the pain will usually subside by the next day. You can still train, but perhaps make it a lighter day if it is still sore the next time you deadlift.
  • Serious pain: usually due to a muscle spasm that locks hard and doesn't want to release. Rest is the best course of action. This type of pain is severe enough that you will likely injure yourself worse if you continue training. Compress, move what you can, release and rest.

The most common type of back pain I suffer from with the deadlifts is back pump. Usually it goes from uncomfortable to very mild a few hours later, and by the next day it is fine. The important thing is that when you feel it coming on while you are training, don't push yourself. If you are doing reps to failure, save at least 2 reps in the tank on that set.

If you are experiencing the serious pain due to a full muscle spasm, take a look at your form. Even with rounded back lifting (atlas stones), the lumbar region (lower back) must be kept rigid for a healthy and happy back. The thoracic region (upper back) can round a little bit if necessary--just be sure to lock out properly.

As to the impact injury, just like weightlifting you have to condition your hands to hit hard things. Knuckle pushups are a good way to toughen the bones in your hands to handle impacts better. If it happens again, and you haven't broken anything, continue to train even though you may be limited by your grip strength. Although, you may consider spending time with a heavy bag instead.

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