An Epidemic of Chronic Lower Back Pain in BJJ Athletes
The physical impact of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu comes to no surprise for long term grapplers. Grappling is a strenuous sport whose impact on our physical well being is severely underappreciated. Jiujiteros also tend to overlook injuries and fail to adjust their training regimens to procure a future of painless grappling and improved quality-of-life. In fact, a large majority of veteran grapplers suffer from chronic pain issues, especially lower back pain. The objective of this article is to inform readers of the prevalence of chronic lower back pain in practitioners and how to deal with this debilitating condition.
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In possibly the only scientific study of the prevalence of chronic lower back pain in practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Reis et. al. found that the condition was present in roughly 81% of grapplers. The study consisted of 72 subjects, of which half were recreational grapplers and the other half were professionals. Although professional grapplers had a larger risk of developing chronic lower back pain, the condition was still found in high prevalence in recreational grapplers.
Low back pain is not limited only to skeletal issues but can also involve the muscles and nerves of the area. Lower back pain is considered chronic when it is present for a long period of time, typically greater than three months. Chronic lower back pain exhibits not only a constantly present pain but acute episodes in which the pain is markedly increased. These episodes of acute pain can be expected to be seen after a difficult jiu jitsu class or competition.
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Unfortunately, treatment of the condition is difficult to attain. Prior to attempting to self-treat, it is highly recommended that you visit your primary care physician to determine the major cause of your lower back pain as the cause can alter treatment choice. Non-medicinal treatments for the condition include exercise therapy, yoga, and heat application. It is not recommended to use common pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for chronic pain, but they can be used during acute episodes. Finally, if you are experience excessive back pain, you should definitely rest from jiu jitsu until the symptoms dissipate or it can worsen long-term outcomes.
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