Lower back pain during squatting motions, whether during exercise or day-to-day activities, can have numerous causes.

Lower back pain is common, with as many as 84% of adults experiencing it. It can have many potential causes.

Your pain may start or get worse during specific movements like squatting. You may have pain when performing squats in an exercise regimen or when squatting during daily activities.

Pain during squatting often occurs due to poor technique and using too much weight. Weaknesses in your core muscles or poor mobility through your hips and ankles can also contribute to pain.

Back pain can sometimes be a sign of an underlying injury. Some injuries, like herniated disks, require medical attention.

Let’s look at the most likely reasons your back hurts while squatting.

There are many reasons why your lower back may hurt while squatting. The most likely causes are the following.

Improper squatting technique

Squatting with poor technique can put excess stress on the muscles and joints in your lower back and put you at risk of injury. Working on your technique by yourself or with a trainer may help reduce your injury risk.

Using too much weight

Squatting with too much weight can force your body into suboptimal positions that increase your risk of injuries. It’s essential to go only as heavy as you can while keeping good technique throughout the lift.

Insufficient hip mobility

Tight hip flexors are common, especially among people who spend a lot of time sitting. Tight hip flexors are a well-established risk factor for lower back pain.

Stretching your hip flexors and breaking up long periods of sitting may help reduce tightness.

Learn more about stretches for tight hip flexors.

Poor ankle mobility

In a 2017 study, researchers found that people with poorer ankle mobility back-squatted with more forward lean, which has been linked to more stress on the lower back.

Improving ankle mobility may help get you into a more upright position while squatting.

Learn more about exercises to improve ankle mobility.

Not warming up enough

Warming up before beginning intense activity helps increase blood flow to your muscles and may reduce the chances of injury and improve your performance.

In a 2020 study, researchers found that performing 6 repetitions at 80% of the training load increased force output during a squatting workout.

Learn more about how to warm up before your workout.

Lower back injury

Sharp pain while squatting may indicate an injury. The two most common lower back injuries among people who lift weights are muscle strains and herniated disks.

Muscle strains are often mild and resolve with home treatment. More serious strains may require medical attention.

A herniated disk can cause neurological symptoms like:

  • numbness or tingling in your lower legs
  • weakness in your lower limbs
  • shooting pain down the back of your leg (sciatica)
  • loss of bowel or bladder control

It’s vital to see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Learn about how to treat a strained muscle.

Poor core strength

Your core muscles stabilize your trunk and spine during movement. Poor core strength may make your lower back more vulnerable to injury during movements like squatting.

Strengthening your core muscles may help reduce your risk of back injuries.

Learn about exercises to improve your core strength.

Squatting in the workplace

Squatting is one of the greatest risk factors for lower back pain in workers. Avoiding prolonged squatting where possible may help you avoid back pain. For example, you may be able to replace prolonged squatting with sitting on a stool.

There are many squat variations, but here are some general guidelines on protecting your lower back when performing a bodyweight squat.

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your toes turned slightly outward. You can rest your arms at your sides, cross them in front of you, or hold them out straight.
  2. Take a deep breath and brace your core.
  3. Push your hips back as if you’re sitting in a chair. It’s important to keep your knees in-line with your toes through the movement. It’s a common mistake for one or both of your knees to cave in, but it’s important not to let this happen.
  4. Go as low as you can without losing the natural curve in your spine. If your mobility allows, you can go until your thighs reach parallel or just below parallel with the ground. Don’t let your heels come off the ground during the movement.
  5. Push through your entire foot to return to the starting position.

Learn more about squatting properly.

Here are some ways to prevent back pain when squatting.

  • improve your technique on your own or with a professional like a coach or trainer
  • warm up before you start squatting
  • if you’re using weight, squat only as heavy as you can without compromising your form
  • improve your core strength
  • improve your ankle and hip mobility
  • avoid unnecessary periods of prolonged squatting

It’s a good idea to contact a doctor if your back pain doesn’t improve within a few weeks with home treatment, or if your pain is getting worse.

It’s important to see a doctor right away if you have signs of a herniated disk.

Lower back pain often gets worse after periods of inactivity. It’s not uncommon for it to feel better after some light activity. You may be able to squat if your pain is minor.

It’s not a good idea to squat if squatting worsens your pain or if you have signs of a herniated disk unless a medical professional tells you it’s OK.

Squats are a common cause of lower back pain. Poor squatting technique or squatting too much weight are common reasons for lower back pain. Weak core muscles, poor hip and ankle mobility, and underlying injuries might also all contribute.

Visit a medical professional if your back pain doesn’t improve within a couple of weeks or is severe.