As with many forms of martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is heavily rooted in grappling techniques. As a result, training in the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu requires a lot of falls, which inevitably have the potential to create structural issues in the spine that can and often do lead to long term chronic neck pain, mid back pain, low back pain, headaches, numbness, tingling, etc.
It’s easy to recognize most acute injuries when they happen because of the common symptom of pain or swelling that often immediately follows an unpleasant event. If you’ve spent any time sparring in Brazilian jiu-jitsu or any other martial arts technique, you will eventually experience some kind of injury. For the most part, a twisted ankle or broken collar bone are “obvious” injuries that will quickly get examined or at least treated with something like ice, pain killers or rest. It’s not uncommon for people to not give it another thought as soon as the initial pain from the injury subsides. As long as you can “walk it off” you must be fine right? A structural chiropractor understands the importance of correcting and maintaining an ideal spinal structure will tell you that this is a big mistake.
Most people do nothing when they take a nasty fall from a toss etc. and chalk up the common aches and pains later in life to “old age”. I literally want to scream every time I hear someone over the age of 40 state with a laisse faire attitude that all of their physical woes and ailments are due to being “old”; as though the last 40 years of ignoring every slip or fall because the pain went away with ice and anti-inflammatory drugs had nothing to do with it. The human body can easily live to well over 100-120 years with proper lifestyle. E.g. 40 is NOT old! It’s going to feel old if you ignore your health and let Brazilian jiu-jitsu training injuries or other physically demanding activities go untreated for extended periods of time just because you “feel fine”. Do that with heart disease or cancer and see what happens. Being reactive with your spine is going to cost too.
The phrase “Pay now or pay later,” comes to mind. Letting injuries go unchecked and subsequently untreated is not smart. Do not let the existence of pain, or lack thereof, be your only indicator that you have an injury or that the injury is properly healed. If you put off getting the appropriate chiropractic exam and treatment you’re putting yourself at risk to pay later with chronic pain. Don’t think so. Ask several people who have been in a car accident if they have any chronic issues.
Injuries big and small are often perceived as harmless and insignificant, or worse, they are erroneously assumed to be “healed” as soon as the pain is gone. This can result in hidden spinal damage from things like a car accident or a Brazilian jiu-jitsu injury. While the initial pain may have gone away in a short period of a couple days or weeks the structural abnormality from a single event or from numerous repetitive events can lead to chronic problems.
Forty-five percent of people with chronic neck pain attribute it to a car accident. Why? There are a couple of potential reasons for this. The reason most likely is because either no care or insufficient care (pain based care) was received after the car accident. This happens very regularly. Many of my patients coming in for chiropractic care can trace their pain back to a car accident or even a slip or fall or injury that happen years or even decades ago. Despite the fact that the initial onset of pain dissipated after utilizing pain based chiropractic care, medical care, over the counter painkillers or no care, the pain came back. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, months or even years before these unresolved injuries produce secondary pain and symptoms that are often the same or similar to the pain and symptoms they had when the injury first happened.
The big question you’re likely asking is, “If the problem is still there then why did the pain go away?” Pain is only a symptom or indicator that there is a problem. A lack of neck pain is not a guarantee of no neck problems, in the same way, a lack of heart attack pain or symptoms is not an indication of good heart health. They call it the silent killer for a reason. Pain is only one of many indicators of a problem. If you want to determine the health of your heart or any other area of your body, there are x-rays, CTs, MRIs, blood tests, ultrasounds and numerous other tests that can be and are often done to determine if there is a problem and what the extent of it is. Pain is often the first sign to go away even if the problem is still there.
For anyone involved in a sport like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, where there is a constant onslaught of repetitive high-velocity contact with the mat, there will undoubtedly be deleterious effects on your spine that shift it away from an ideal structure. This is why regular structural chiropractic is not only advisable but essential to avoid the “I’m too old for this” blues. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you should just push through the pain. Even worse would be to just assume you’re fine if there is no pain.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is not a docile activity. It’s just expected that you’re going to take some regular hits like football. Essentially every NFL team has, at least, one chiropractor on staff to manage the constant beating the athletes take from playing football. Remember they are all “protected” with very high-end equipment but the hits take their toll. The chiropractors are not just there to treat obvious injuries. Regular chiropractic care helps them to avoid injuries as well as recover more quickly from them, even if they are having active symptoms or pain.
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