Having done Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for many years I have run into my fair share of back problems. You could be at practice or during a match and tweak your back just the right way and the pain starts. Getting rid of back pain starts first with taking care of your back; You can’t just expect your back to hold up to everything you are putting it through. You need to make sure not only your back, but that the rest of your body is in shape as well. Just focusing on your back will not help prevent back problems.
There are many solutions out there for back pain. Some will send your physician, others to a chiropractor, some may recommend massage. All of these things MAY help with the issues but they are not a long term solution. Sure after you take a couple pain meds your back may feel better but a few hours later the pain returns. A chiropractor may help, again only for a limited time, you may have to go back for another re-adjustment. After a massage you always feel more relaxed, but what happens when that wears off? You are right back to wear you started – with back pain.
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain is caused for a number of different reasons. You could throw out your back working, working out at your local gym, just moving the wrong way. On more than once occasion I have thrown out my back and not really understood what I did to cause it and it hurts. It interrupts your schedule. You may not be able to go to work, or work out or work on practicing with your team mates for a competition that is coming up – kind of makes you feel a little helpless.
The most common source of back pain – repetitive strain. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it in one sense or another but no one ever thinks to apply it to back pain. Carpal tunnel (for all of you desk jockeys out there) know exactly what I’m talking about. Repetitive movements at your desk, such as typing up an article, can cause this kind of injury. Same goes for your back. This happens when your tissues are overworked. Picking up your kids, or bending down to pick something up isn’t going to cause you to throw out your back. If that was the case everyone would be throwing their back out left and right. Practicing armbars every day, doing the same motions over and over again, day after day, this will cause what I am talking about – repetitive strain.
Your Back Needs Time to Rest
Most of us will continue to practice even if we are in pain, we’ve got to get that armbar down for the next competition. Stop. By practicing when you are in pain already is just going to cause you more pain and will cause more damage. When you start having muscle spasms, your muscles are trying to stabilize whatever has been hurt, so the movement stops and no more damage can occur. Makes sense right? Your muscles are telling you that you need to rest. Listen to your body. Think about when you get a cut on a joint that is constantly moving. You skin your knee or elbow for example. It takes way more time to heal then say a cut on the top of your forearm because your elbow and knee are in constant motion and do not have time to rest. The one on the top of your forearm heals faster because it is not in constant motion – same concept with back pain – Take a break! Take a few days off and wait for your back to heal before you get back to work.
One of the main sites for back pain is your lower back. Little know fact – your lumbar spine was not made for mobility, it was made for stability. You need to have mobility above and below your lumbar spine; Your hips and your thoracic (upper) spine.
Another main cause of back pain is poor movements in your daily life. Society today has many of us at desk jobs, I’m one of them. To help reduce your back pain you need to get your full natural range of motion back. You will need to address the factors that are limiting your mobility to get your full range of motion back. For example, try squatting all the way to floor not just halfway. This will help get your full range of motion in your hips and help with your ankles. After doing this for some time you will notice more flexibility in those areas. Once you know the proper movement patterns and have the right mobility and strength in all areas of your body your back pain will start to lessen.
Posture also plays a role in back pain. If you’re always hunched over a desk or in your car and you spend most of your day like that, it is likely that it will cause some issues. Practice proper posture. Stand up straight, sit up straight and be more aware of it at all times. Just little changes like this can help a great deal.
Having a strong core is a great advantage not only in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or MMA, but will help greatly with your back pain. Your transverse abdominis (TVA), the muscles that helps draw in your stomach so to speak, help stabilize your spine. Most people who have back pain do not have properly functioning TVA muscles. These muscles resemble a girdle and are the deepest muscles of the abdomen. The TVA is natures back belt, just as you would see people wearing at their jobs or at their gym. Another core muscle that is important in helping not only with your back pain but in stabilizing your spine is the multifidus. These muscles stretch out along your spine, 2-4 vertebrae at a time, keeping them in line with each other. They help lock the spine together to prevent damage. This muscle contracts before movement, and in people with back pain, the reaction doesn’t happen or is delayed. There are specific strength training exercises you can do to target the TVA and multifidus muscle that will help eliminate your back pain.
There is more than just one way to help eliminate back pain.