Acupuncture for Martial Arts Bad Back Injuries

An excerpt from Irish Fighter Magazine, Issue 3 2007, Straight to the Point Column

By Paul J.O'Brien
B.A., N.C.E.H.S., Dip. Acu., Cert Clin. Med. M.T.C.M.C.I., M.C.Th.A.

Acupuncture for Martial Arts Bad Back Injuries - Introduction

Battling Back and Sciatica

It often beings with waking up - the realization that getting out of bed hurts. This is the unfortunate reality of those suffering from back pain or sciatica. Most people suffer from low back pain, either sharp or dull in nature, or worse sciatica – the constant pain that runs from the lower back down one, or both legs. Alas martial artists are no exception to this, quite the contrary.

All to often we are subjected to attack along the spine – nearly always self inflicted. A bad ukemi or break fall in Aikido, Taijutsu, Jujitsu or Judo could have you laid out, not just on the mat but for weeks in all aspects of your life. In fact, any grappling art from traditional Judo to the increasingly popular styles such as Brazilian Jujitsu fundamentally rely on proper postural alignment – and that necessitates a healthy a spine.

Posture and an aligned spine allow you to maintain proper poise and balance as well as allowing you to channel strength from the muscles of the leg into the upper body and from their to you opponent. The constant stress of neck cranks, cravats and chokes often place undue stress, tension and strain along the spine and thus the muscles of the back. This is most evident in beginners to grappling arts who try to power out of compromised positions rather than utilize technique.

Can You Shake Your Hips? (Acupuncture for Martial Arts Bad Back Injuries Part 1)

The hips too also act as a corner stone of Mixed Martial Arts enthusiasts, grappler's and strikers. Initiating any throw successfully requires precise hip movement and co-ordination. Strikers to, from boxers to traditional karateka develop stopping power in their strikes through the rotation of the hips and spine. Each kick involves the interconnected web of muscles around the hips, lower back and legs. As my sensei reminded me often during my Shotokan days – “all power in karate comes from the Hara” (The central core of hips, stomach and lower back).

As Martial Artists we leave our selves open and vulnerable to back injuries through our training and physical pursuits, and when they occur it doesn’t just effect our training – it impacts our whole life. As I’m sure many of use have experienced at some point driving a car with back pain can be unbearable, torturous, second only to trying to get out of the car.

Why Sitting Down Can Leave You With a Bad Back! (Acupuncture for Martial Arts Bad Back Injuries Part 2)

Simply sitting in chair be it in the car of office is unpleasant. Beside which it isn’t a great idea anyway. Chairs aren’t really healthy for humans. Aside form the fact that most people slouch in them and develop poor postural habits and straining the upper back and neck with modern devices such as laptops and moving a mouse around all day, the chair itself shortens a muscle called the hip flexor. (This is the muscle used to raise your leg in a front kick). The hip flexor runs from the leg through the pelvis and attaches to the small of the back. Prolonged sitting shortens it and then pulls our lower back out of alignment and straining to support the full eight of our upper body. It’s no wonder sitting down can leave you stiff and sore.

The discomfort of a bad back disseminates outward and is often perceived by our work colleagues as the constantly need to shift weight in a futile effort to find a comfortable position leaves us exasperated and annoyed.

Of course standing is equally problematic – if the central support structure of the human body is compromised every movement becomes a burden. Sleeping is no different. All too commonly back pain leads to restless and unfulfilling sleep. We awake to pain, irritability, frustration and exhaustion.

Worse yet, if we are stubborn enough to try and train through it – and most martial artists are, including myself – then our co-ordination, concentration and movement are all greatly impaired and the reflexive movements honed through years of practice can lead to a greater detrimental deterioration of the back.

Banish Back Pain – Be Kind to Your Kidneys! (Acupuncture for Martial Arts Bad Back Injuries Part 3)

Luckily in my experience back pain and sciatica can quickly and easily be treated and even completely relieved through Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I’ve been fortunate enough to specialize in this common cause of pain and discomfort and have had the pleasure of treating those who came to me doubled over in pain and unable to straighten only to have them leave straightened out and pain free, walking tall and with a spring in their step.

The great news, it isn’t just me who gets such incredible results In Nov.1997 the World Health Organization deemed Acupuncture one of THE Most effective treatments for relieving the symptoms of back pain. In Western Medicine when back pain is diagnosed treatments often involves surgery or injections and drugs such as cortisol or epidurals. None of these treatments however ask or treat the underlying cause of back pain, nor do they attempt to fix it.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, while of course concentrating on relieving your symptoms, in this case pain, also tries to understand the root cause. In many cases it is an imbalance of Kidney Qi – or the energy we associate with Kidney function. (Completely separate to your actual physical kidneys).

In TCM, the lower back is the mansion of the Kidney’s, meaning that the energy or Qi surrounding the area is mostly associated with them. Blockages in this flow of energy result in pain. Imagine a river flowing unimpeded and suddenly a tree falls across the river, we see in our imagination the water no longer flowing freely, but getting blocked by the log, pushing into the banks of the river. The basic concept of acupuncture is to re-open the river, create a circulation so that the log lifts and normal flow is restored.

Restoring the Flow - Backache be Gone Guide (Acupuncture for Martial Arts Bad Back Injuries Part 4)

You can great relief (though not as effective as an Acupuncture session) by following my “Backache be Gone Guide” that I give to my patients. It’s printed out with full instructions and step by step photos in the panel opposite. You can enhance the effects of this easy to follow guide by eating a healthy diet and encouraging the flow of blood and Qi (the energy manipulated in Traditional Chinese Medicine) through heat treatment.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine ingesting too much salt, or drinking too much liquid – and yes that includes water, can weaken they back and Kidneys. Cold food, or catching a cold, drafty areas etc, can lower our body temperature and reduce proper blood flow and circulation to inured areas. Of course excessive jarring exercises won’t help much either – though light training can heat up the body naturally and gets your blood flowing.

Using a hot water bottle or microwavable bean bag can provide temporary pain relief (assuming there is no inflammation – in which case I wouldn’t recommend it). This will help increase blood flow and circulation to the muscles and provide a nourishing warmth and comfort. Speaking of warmth, foods such as chicken, basil, chestnut and ginger will also help speed up the process.

Once caveat though, don’t use this guide on disintegrating disks or broken bones. If you are in doubt or are suffering from severe low back pain or sciatica please contact your doctor or primary care physician. My door, as always, is open and if you would like relief from your back pain or sciatica call me for a FREE consultation, a service I make available for all Irish Fighter readers. Feel free to contact me or make an appointment here.

Now find a comfortable straight backed chair, or lie down a firm carpeted floor and get started with Step 1 of my “Backache Be Gone Guide” on the opposite panel. Try this self massage guide upon rising or before going to bed and before you know it you’ll be “back” in action and feeling great. Next issue we will focus on eliminating a pain in the neck.

(Massage sequence printed in Irish Fighter Magazine, Issue 3, 2007, unavailable due to copyright)

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