Are you in considerable back pain now? Go seek a medical professional now. When you heal up READ this guide on my strategies and tactics I perform daily to balance my desire to go 110% on the mats while keeping healthy and back pain FREE!
As someone who has practiced Kickboxing for over 20 years, BJJ for 6 years and lifted weights for over 25 years I have put my back and spine through the ringer time and time again.
My back pain journey started after college with a weight room accident while squatting, Over the years, I also suffered from deliberating disk herniations, sciatica and other low back issues and for me no other physical suffering is as worse as when you “throw out your back”.
I also have a genetic condition in the spine called disk degeneration which is prevalent in my L5 -S1 region (lower back) so I have to work around those issues and wanted to share this guide on how I manage and keep away (for the most part) my lower back issues and keep my spine and back healthy while training BJJ 3-4 times a week or more.
Strategy 1 – Get a Mobility Routine and Work it Daily!
I’m big fan of Steve Maxwell’s mobility routines here. I typically either do the beginner or immediate before lifting or bjj workouts. It only takes 15 minutes and it works all the major areas of the body.
Mobility is different than stretching or yoga as mobility is less about static stretching and more about moving your joints in their full range of motion. You are essentially making sure you joints can move correctly as such to prevent imbalances from occuring in the body due to improper mobility.
You can see a preview of his routine I do daily here:
For example if you suffer from poor mobility in your ankles this can affect your squatting motion thus putting more stress onto your back/spine in ways it was not meant for.
I never hit the gym without going through at least the basic mobility routine here: https://www.maxwellsc.com/mobility-movements.cfm
The routines are only 15 minutes and are a great way to start the day!
Strategy 2 – Build Your Core to Stabilize and Support Your Back
Are You Doing the Big 3 Core Strength Exercises as Taught by the Spine Researcher Dr. Stuart McGill? Do you even know who Dr. Stuart McGill is? If you want to be pain free you should!
The theory behind these movements is that reduce back pain or (totally eliminate it) you must strengthen the core to support the spine but do it in a way that doesn’t agitate your spine further like most “abs” workouts do.
Dr McGill recommends 3 types of exercises that work the front, side and rear core muscle groups.
I highly recommend reading his book here but if you are short on time follow along with the video below to get an overview on the big 3 exercises
- Stuart McGill (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 166 Pages - 09/30/2015 (Publication Date) - Stuart McGill (Publisher)
Strategy 3 – Have a Strength and Conditioning Program – Work it Weekly!
Do You Have A Strength and Conditioning Program?
Along with strengthening your core to support you back you can building your body’s overall up a strength and conditioning program to keep
A significant improvement in strength endurance during the BS test was observed in line with other studies.39 This is indicative of an increased ability to resist lumbar flexion which, when viewed with the changes in fat infiltration, suggests improved conditioning of the lumbar extensors, a deconditioning of which has been suggested as a risk factor for LBP (Lower Back Pain).24 https://bmjopensem.bmj.com/content/1/1/e000050
Positive outcomes including reduced pain and disability, improvement in quality of life, strength endurance and lumbar paraspinal muscle quality in patients with LBP (Lower Back Pain) were seen.
I recommend going with a BJJ Specific Training Program like Ground Control.
Strategy 4 – Do Yoga and Stretch Often Especially After Training
Are You Stretching Regularly and Have a Yoga Routine?
I had a lot of success with Yoga and loosening up my back. In the past after injuring my back and after the major pain started to subside my go to cheap physical therapy is to sign up for trial membership at my local hot yoga gym.
I really enjoy going to a Bikram Hot Yoga Class. The poses are the same from class to class and beauty is in how shallow or deep you can take them to test out your flexibility. Added with the heat and the fact the poses work your whole body I would really consider getting a yoga membership to add with BJJ and Weight Gym regimen. The poses really work and stretch my spine in ways I don’t normally do.
If you can’t make it to a Hot Yoga Class try stretching at home. I personally like YogaForBJJ They have a ton of yoga workouts and stretching routines for pre and post training.
There are programs for absolute beginners, age groups, skill level and specific body regions like hips, back, neck etc.
I personally really like their hip flow series. Their back pain program is really awesome and is a different take on why you experience back pain. I won’t spoil it just go check it out.
They have a lot of ways to watch the content so this is great way to stretch out in and out of your house.
YogaForBJJ.net has a great back pain series and Physical Therapy Videos addressing Back Pain and Lower Back in specifically.
Strategy 5 – Have a BJJ Game That Helps Minimize Spine Stress!
Are You Checking Your Ego When Rolling? Does you game depending on a lot of inversion?
I tend to stay away from inversion however at the highest levels of jiu jitsu some form of inversion will be necessary in retaining guard. If you are going to invert do it the right way and save you back and neck!
Here is a great video on different drills to a safer inversion:
Strategy 6 – Foam Roll, Massage and Myofascial Release
I really like the following tools to help relieve muscle soreness and help floss the nerves when I suffer a bout of Sciatica.
A Foam Roller, Massage Gun and Massage Ball.
VIBRATING FOAM ROLLER
- The vibrating foam roller trusted by professional athletes - The NextRoller combines vibration and foam rolling to help professional athletes reach peak performance (we've been featured on CBS, NBC, FOX, and more). We help the pros excel, and we can help you achieve your fitness goals too!
- Cutting edge 3-speed vibration technology - Choose between low, medium, and high intensities to apply the perfect amount of pressure to each of your sore muscles and joints. The NextRoller can help relieve muscle pain in your lower and upper back, knees, IT band, quads, hamstrings, and more.
- Your personal massage therapist - Our foam roller incorporates vibration to aid recovery, mobility, and flexibility before and after weightlifting, CrossFit, yoga, jiu jitsu, running, cardio, or any other exercise. It's the ideal muscle roller for self massage and myofascial release to make sure your body is prepared to excel and remain injury free.
- Portable and rechargeable - The NextRoller measures 6" in diameter and 13" in length. Our simple, included wall-outlet charging cable makes it easy to get a massage any time, anywhere. One full charge will give you over two hours of vibrating massage!
- The G3PRO is scientifically-calibrated to deliver deep muscle treatment, 40 times per second, to relieve muscle tension, accelerate warm up & recovery, & enhance performance
- 50% quieter with fully redesigned proprietary gearbox & powerful Japanese motor. 2 speeds for customized treatment, Standard (40 percussions per second) & Sensitive (29 percussions per second)
- 2 swappable Lithium-ion batteries for continuous use, 75-minute run time each.Frame:Professional-grade plastic composite
- Adjustable arm with 4 angles for an ergonomic full-body reach. 6 unique attachments designed to target specific needs of every muscle group
- Includes: G3PRO, 6 Attachments w/ Pouch, premium Travel Case, 2 Samsung Lithium-ion batteries, Lithium-ion Battery Charger
TriggerPoint Foam Massage Ball
- This item benefits from an Extended 90 Day Return Window
- 5-Inch ball covers large areas providing extra leverage for hard to reach muscle groups like hips and shoulders
- Ideal for relieving tightness and restoring movement and mobility throughout the entire body
- Foam surface is easier to clean and more hygienic than cloth
- This item benefits from an Extended 90 Day Return Window
Here is great post on how to use these tool to help with back pain.
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💥𝐒𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐚💥 ——— ✅Sciatica most often describes symptoms that originate from the low back (lumbar spine) and radiate down the back of the leg. In more mild cases, pain, numbness and/or tingling sensations may only travel to the buttock and back of the thigh. As neural irritation increases, pain may then pass the knee and radiate into the calf, shin and foot. – 📌When working to improve symptoms associated with sciatica, exercise should have the primary goal of decreasing neural irritation. When neural symptoms improve pain will begin to leave the leg and move closer to the spine. This is referred to as the centralization phenomenon. On the flip side, if symptoms travel farther down the leg (peripheralization), then efforts should be made to identify activities that are worsening one’s state and modified appropriately. – 👀Shown here are several exercises that are often helpful for decreasing neural sensitivity and encouraging centralization. . 1️⃣Foam Rolling: rolling the glutes and hip rotators can help to decrease neural sensitivity due to the nerve’s path through this area. . 2️⃣Knee to Chest: the single and double knee to chest positions can be very useful when looking to decrease back pain and nerve sensitivity. Hold each position for 20-30 seconds and repeat whenever they are needed. . 3️⃣Prone Extension: the progression shown here can be very useful for encouraging centralization of neural symptoms. Start with the head on hands, move to elbows and then up to hands. Move to each new position when tolerable. Hold each position for 5-10 seconds and repeat. Symptoms in the leg should get better, if this technique is appropriate. . 4️⃣Sciatic Mobilization: this nerve mobilization involves using ankle movements to alternate between positions of tension and slack on the sciatic nerve. Try 10-15 ankle movements and then relax. . Give these a try and let me know if you have any questions. . #RehabScience #RehabScienceSpine
Strategy 7 – Invert and Decompress
Do You Have a Back Extension Inversion Table?
This last tool has been a game changer for me. Inversion therapy and using a Inversion table has really kept lower back pain at bay.
Where as I used to push my workouts too far and I could tell when I was going to have back spasm episode, with the inversion table and hanging upside has really decompress my spine and help keep me pain free!
You can get a inexpensive one for around $100 USD or spend a little more for heated back padding but no matter which one get an inversion table because it is worth every penny!
- New Patent Pending Advanced vertical massage pad that covers the entire spine area with a contour integrated lumbar pad to provide a close up heat and massage therapy for the lower back/waist area
- Assembled Product Dimensions: 46" H x28" W x 61" D
- Six (6) position Adjustable pin system with added Patent Pending Protective Cover for easy positioning and safer inverting over strap systems
- Accommodates users 4ft-10" to 6ft-6" with a 300 lbs. weight capacity
- Multi mode heat and massage settings with auto and manual selection for a complete massage experience
What strategies do you use to keep you back healthy and pain free? Post a comment down below 👇