What’s really causing your back injury?
Everyone knows that combat sports can be tough on the body. So when you pick up an injury, it can be easy to assume that it’s your training that caused it. Especially if it was during a training session that you first noticed the pain.
The thing to remember is that the “obvious” cause of your pain isn’t always the most important factor. I see many people with back pain who tell me that they injured their back doing picking up a pencil, getting out of bed or tying their shoelaces. Almost always, this was just the final straw – just one stress too many on a back that has been weakened and damaged over time. The same can sometimes be true of pain that begins while you’re training.
As we discussed in lower back pain, part 1, one of the biggest factors in causing this damage to the lower back is prolonged or repeated flexion. While there are many potential culprits in the gym, it is often as much the things a fighter does outside the gym that keep the injury recurring.
Spending long hours sat at a computer in work during the day, surfing the internet in the evening, chilling out on the sofa playing x-box or watching a film – all of these are potential culprits. And if you’re taking time off from the gym while your back gets better, you may just find yourself spending more time doing one of these activities.
Going straight from a sitting activity to the gym is potentially risky too. When your back is bent forwards or slumped in a chair, the ligaments in your back experience “creep” – in other words they become longer and less supportive. This isn’t good news for the safety and stability of your spine, as it can take hours for those tissues to return to their normal length. If you go straight from the office to the car, and then to the gym, you might be significantly increasing your risk of suffering an injury to one of the discs in your spine.
So, what can you do about it? Sort out your sitting habits.
- Make sure that chairs you spend a lot of time in give plenty of support to your lower back.
- At work, where possible ask your occupational health department for a workstation assessment – small changes in your sitting position can make a big difference.
- Make it a habit to take regular mini-breaks. Be strict – set an alarm every 15 minutes, and when it goes off make sure that you take at least a few seconds to get out of your chair, have a quick stretch and move around.
- In your car, consider using a seat wedge and/or a lumbar supportto keep your spine in a more neutral position while you’re driving.
In the next part of this series, we’ll look at some exercises for developing good movement patterns and strengthening your back.