SUBMIT THAT BACK PAIN! BACK PAIN RELIEF FOR KARATE, MMA and LIFE
Hey guys! Mr. Titus Waters here, Former LMT (licensed massage therapist), and 4th Degree Black Belt in the American Kempo Association. I’m going to talk about some different ways to SUBMIT that back pain! It’s a common thing being alive to experience pain, especially if you’re training hard to IMPROVE your Martial Arts skills or just living out an average work life. Being a former LMT, I’m going to talk about my forte, the skeletal-muscular system and 3 key words: STRENGTHEN, STRETCH, STASIS!!!
STRENGTHEN—Many muscle pains are caused by imbalance in muscles. Upper back pain is the most common. For example, Pec or Chest muscles are typically tighter or stronger than your upper back muscles (Rhomboids & Trapezius). Pain in between shoulder blades can be caused by such an imbalance (this can translate into headaches). One thing I always recommend is to strengthen those muscles by pull-ups, under-bar pull ups, or dumbbell pull-ups (in the push-up position, pull elbow high and free weight to chest with one arm and alternate) are great exercises to perform to STRENGTHEN the back! It takes work and time, but these can be under used in workout routines. TOO HARD OF A START? No worries. An easier start is to put your belly on the floor, put both hands out and lift them off the ground to contract those upper back muscles (play with different angles of the arms to help; hands low, to the sides, and up).
STRETCH- Not the most fun of activities, but it’s often easy to leave this out before and after workouts and during day to day routines. Muscles must be shortened but also lengthened through range of motion to stay limber and at lower levels of pain. For example, for the upper back as described earlier you also need to stretch the pec or chest muscles out (PECTORALIS MINOR to be exact). Standing still, put your hands together far out in front and about head level (top of head). Take them apart as far as possible, then back to the position, about 10 times to get the range of motion. Now, find a corner wall or something to help assist the next stretch. Placing one hand behind you head and placing your elbow on the wall, press your body forward into a lunge. The wall will press your elbow past the range into a great stretch for your chest and it will contract those back muscles we talked about earlier as well.
STASIS—What do I mean by this? Stasis is (think biology 101 hemostasis, yes that) your body adjusting to find balance in the environment you put it in. To put it bluntly, what’s your normal? Your body tries to get used to what you put it through and reset to normal levels. Pain is a biological motivator to do something. Learning to listen to this can be key to LEARNING how to SUBMIT that Back pain. There is a line between too much and too little that’s adjustable over time. A lot fits into this category, mostly simple things like rest, water, ions (salt content), nutrients, activity or work. An example, I had a friend years ago trip and fall (not the athletic type, like Steve Rogers before he was Captain America). He cried out in pain and I asked, “what’s hurting?” He said “EVERYTHING.” It was a funny moment for all in the room because we knew what he was like. Pain in his muscles and body wasn’t so much because of the fall but of the time and years of conditioning before it. Your body is always being conditioned and it’s important to realize this. Sometimes the worst thing you can do when you have pain in your back is rest it. You want to get back to range of motion and activity as soon as possible. As Sir Isaac Newton said, “An object in motion, tends to stay in motion.” Avoid long extremes. There is a price to pay in pain when we put our bodies in one position for a long time. Light range of motion stretch after waking up is a way to get the body moving (think about a dog after a long nap, what do they do with their back?).
To conclude, PAIN takes ACTIVE WORK and THOUGHT to manage it, and to look at our habits. The chest stretch I shared earlier personally helped me out after training in Karate or MMA for an hour or so. For sparring I put myself into a position good for fighting but not necessary for walking. After sparring or grappling sessions, I would find myself with some back pain and headaches from putting my body into a curled-up position for an extended period until I started making it a priority to do the stretches outlined earlier. Just like Grappling, and learning how to work with a partner to finally sinking in a submission, the process takes time and practice. Pain is a partner to roll with as well. With some work and effort, you too can Learn how to SUBMIT your back pain like I did.