Ask a Chiropractor: Should I deadlift with back pain?

Deadlift is an exercise where you lift dead weight off the ground. Chronic back pain sufferers fear this because it’s often associated with pain. You would have probably heard your family or friends telling people to be careful with how they pick things off the ground. Because, we think that’s bad for our spine.

Living in the 21st century definitely does come with its perks. We live with so much technology that are designed to make our lives easier that we forgot our ancestors way of life. We forgot that in the days of the great savanna, our ancestors would walk tens of kilometers daily. A hunter-gatherer lifestyle would also mean being able to pick up carcasses off the ground, and carrying them for quite a distance.

Our point is that humans are designed to move and to be able to carry weight. Sure, at some point in modern living some of us may lose some aspects of it. This may be the reason why you have pain. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot be lifting weight for the rest of your life!

Is deadlift bad for my spine?

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We dont shy away from tough work at Square One Active Recovery We do what it takes to help you find true freedom from pain

Deadlift can be considered a functional movement because you perform the movement regularly on a day-to-day basis. Most of us intuitively perform a deadlift when we try to pick something heavy off the ground. So, we consider deadlift to be a functional movement.

At Square One Active Recovery, we don’t think there are any moments that are bad for your spine. In fact, demonising normal, functional movements often lead people to develop a fear of moving. What happens, as a result of that, is avoidance behaviour. This actually lead to poorer daily functioning, and even more pain.

It is indeed true that deadlifting a weight that’s too heavy for you can cause injury. However, this is true for ALL movements and exercises! Doing a bench press that’s too heavy for you can cause injury. Running weight ankle weights that are too heavy for you can also cause injury.

Anything that’s too heavy for you can cause injury! In that sense, the movement or exercise is not the problem. The weight is!

Does deadlifting with “bad form” give me back pain?

Yes, and no.

We’d argue that there’s no such thing as “bad form”. Similar to weights, there are only forms that you can support and forms you cannot support.

If we subscribe to the belief that an upright posture during lifting is good form and everything that deviates from that is bad form that causes injury, then Jefferson Curl should be a bad exercise for you.

If Jefferson Curl is a bad exercise for you, because of the rounding of the spine, why then do so many people use it as a conditioning exercise?

This go back to our earlier point that we don’t believe that there any movements that are bad for you. It comes down to if you can support or cannot support it.

If your body can support  Jefferson Curl at the load that you are doing, then you would be able to benefit from doing it. If your body cannot support the rounding of your spine, then you may indeed injury yourself doing it. However, that’s not to say you cannot train your lumbar spine to have the capacity to round itself!

Having said that, there’s no hard rule that suggest upright lifting is always better for you. And that if you lift upright equals you won’t get injured. The truth is that all of our bodies are different, and you are adapted to your own way of life. For some of us, deadlifting with some roundness in the back may actually be better than an upright spine!

Just because it looks straight doesn’t mean it’s a neutral spine!

Our naked eye, unfortunately, is not the best gauge of what is good form, especially when it comes to rounded backs.

In a 2021 study, researchers found that you need ≥34° of posterior tilt (think butt wink) before your eyes can detect it. This means what looks neutral spine to your eyes doesn’t actually mean it is actually neutral (0°). This is why an evidence-based approach is important. It cuts through the broscience and allows you to get good recovery outcomes.

The next time someone tries to talk to you about good form, you can tell them to keep their broscience to themselves!

Chiropractic treatment for lower back aches

You may be surprised to learn that we don’t offer chiropractic adjustments at our clinic. As back pain chiropractors in Singapore that are focused on delivering long term results, we offer treatments that work as short-term solutions. Spinal manipulation provides temporary relief and your pain will often come back.

If cracking your spine can lead to long-term results, why do traditional chiropractors expect their patients to continue with regular treatments for the rest of their life?

In our opinion, needing regular treatments is no different from pain killers or medication. It’s short-term results, and it doesn’t constitute true recovery. At Square One Active Recovery, a full recovery is about being able to live the life you want without having to depend on anyone. It is our responsibility as allied health providers to help you achieve that. This is why we use an empowerment-based approach. This is how we aim to make our own services redundant to our clients.

Is exercise even part of chiropractic?

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Exercise is a big part of chiropractic since the very beginning. Early chiropractors used exercise to help patients achieve alignment of their spines. What we are doing at our practice is 100% part of chiropractic.

Unfortunately, many chiropractors in Singapore choose to not offer exercise as part of their treatment approach. The reason is because exercise as a treatment takes consideration longer time than just a five-minute full spine adjustment.

Furthermore, the relief from getting cracked is fairly short. Research suggests that it lasts for only 30 minutes. Many chiropractic patients will experience relief for a couple of days at most. This means they will need regular treatments. For this reason, choosing to mainly offer spinal adjustments is good for business! You have to keep coming back for more!

With the growth of science and research, we starting to learn more about body, and what actually helps with recovery. Both chiropractors and pain patients alike would have to keep up in order to achieve good outcomes. Yes, all of us have our own biases, beliefs, values. We are not denying that.

What we are saying is that, at some point, all of these have to go if we want good outcomes. We have to keep up with times. Especially if you are not getting better.

Have a think about it. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. What you need for extraordinary results is a radical change. This can start with the type of treatments you choose.


Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.