Few things suck as hard as back pain. All you want to do is roll and have fun, and your body is acting out like a teenager and revolting against you with shooting pain down your hips and legs.
Going to the doctor probably does not help at all, because all you hear is ‘Eat some pills and stop training for 15-20 years and you will be fine’.
So what can we do then?
First of all, you will want to get an honest assessment of your situation. We counted out your doctor earlier (unless he trains BJJ and knows what’s up), but to get a fair shot at knowing what is going on you should definitely go to a specialist who can locate the issue and tell you if it is muscular or skeletal. The difference between a bulging disc and a sciatic nerve impingement is massive in terms of course of action, while the difference in pain might be very hard to know for a layman.
After you know what your problem is, it is time to look at the golden rule of rehab:
Do Not Do Exercises That Provoke Symptomatic Pain
If you can do the following exercises without provoking any pain, then you are taking control of the situation and doing the right thing:
Rock and Roll
This is a superb back pain reliever, if done slow and carefully. Start on your back and grab your legs. Do really tiny situps using only your arms and legs. lifting your chin to your chest. Slowly lower down and repeat.
When you have done this 20-30 times, it will feel natural to sit up and do the next step:
Slowly roll down to your back, then use your legs to rock up to a seat again. Be careful on the way down and really make use of your arms on the way down, as this is where pain is most commonly triggered.
Repeat the rock and roll for 5-15 minutes to massage and stretch your back.
Spinal rolling like the Cat and Cow yoga exercise is a double whammer: You get plenty of motion in between your vertebrae and help facilitate more blood flow to your problematic area, while also strengthening your core. The most common reason for bulging and herniated discs is that your core didn’t do its job, and the discs had to absorb the impact instead. With the Cat Cow exercise, you are working your core all the way from your pelvic floor up to your diaphragm (assuming that you are doing it slowly). This will re-establish the belly-back connection and teach your core to support your spine.
Most martial artists, and especially jiu jitsu practitioners, get their back pain from explosive moves or heavy pressure, most commonly in forward folds. This is good news, because then we can avoid symptomatic pain when we side stretch! When you stretch the Lat, obliques and intercostals (spareribs), it releases tension in your whole upper body. This makes it easier to breathe and move, and when you stretch in backbends and forward folds there is less resistance in the muscles and fascia around your torso.
This effectively means that when you provoke your injury/problem area, you get a nervous system response and a hormonal response which tries to Protect your area, not heal it.
There is a masochistic desire to provoke your pain when doing rehab, that you Have to let go of, if you want to help your body heal.
If you can do these exercises that both stretches, activates and releases tension in your pain area, you are doing a fantastic job to help your body do its job.
A bonus tip if you have back pain at night:
Use a Yoga bolster or a big pillow under your knees when you sleep. This puts the back in a more restful position and will make you sleep deeper, which in turn will help facilitate more healing in your back.
Last but absolutely not least; You need to be patient with back pain. Trying to ‘fix’ your back before the next competition three days from now is unrealistic. Instead be patient and follow a set program every day for at least a month without expecting any results. When you learn to do the poses not for reaching a goal, but for their own sake, that’s when things starts to happen!
There’s a really good back pain combating program on the website. It’s called back in control, and it will do just that – get your back in control again.
Not sure if the program will work? Don’t worry. We have a default 2 week free trial, that allows you to start the program for free. Sign up, see how you go. You can cancel any time if it is not the right thing for you. Just give it an honest try!