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BlueDevilfish 07-20-2009 12:23 AM

Aikido with a back injury
 
Hello,
I am new on this forum. I have had an interest in martial arts since my teenage years through to my mid twenties, and back then did judo, karate and hapkido. I have some insight into aikido since my brother used to learn it and we often practised together. I haven't however had any involvement in the martial arts for around 25 years.

I am now 50 years of age and I have been considering aikido as an option, but have some concerns since I have a long term back problem. At its worst I have had up to 3 months off work, but over the last 2 years it has improved considerably. I still get niggles and have to be careful but it is quite rare now for me to have significant pain, and I haven't had time off work in recent times. My main concern with aikido would be the potential jarring of my back with the falls, and possibly twisting of my back during certain skills.

I am wondering if anyone else has had back trouble and could let me know if aikido has caused problems (or maybe provided benefits??).

Abasan 07-20-2009 05:12 AM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
I've practised with back injury for near 13 years now. I have a spinal protusion in my lower back due to numerous reasons so I've no idea which one it might be but it definitely wasn't aikido.

Initially I was afraid to start aikido because of this. Sometimes the pain is so bad I couldn't walk, sit, or sleep.

The first Aikido I did was a splinter shin shin toitsu style. I must say that it helped me a lot. Because of the stuff we did, kokyu, ki practice, rolling etc, my back felt great. And if i begin to miss classes, it'll act up again.

Later on joining aikikai, and a more robust dojo what with flying leaps and breakfalls etc, did nothing to aggravate my back. Perhaps the ukemi has improved. Lying down doing nothing makes it worst.

Recently I've started some body therapy with my 3rd chiropractor. She makes me work unlike the previous 2 that did all the work for me. So with the short leg, flat feet, bad neck, inverted spine, rotated hip bone joint and whatever multitude of problems I didn't know I had identified, we've been working on strengthening the core the correct way and aligning my body.

It also opened my eyes to see how difficult proper stretches are. Perhaps, you should practise aikido but do it with the most proper care. I would recommend starting with shin shin toitsu, because they place an importance on ki development. Yes, ki is ephemeral, but their physical practise will be very beneficial for you if done properly.

My sensei always say, If you train aikido and get injured a lot then you're doing it wrong. You train aikido, and your injuries should get better. And indeed i've seen his students come with various physical and mental ailments (not to mention old age) and have come out the better for it.

Eva Antonia 07-20-2009 05:28 AM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
Dear David,

I had lower back pain since I was 19, and no doctor could help. They just said "you have to live with it", which was not really comforting. I couldn't lift things (still cannot), and there were times the back hurt in every imaginable position. I felt vertebrae slipping in and out, like a sort of hernia, but luckily it never went so far. Once I flew from Germany to Turkey lying on the floor of the plane because I couldn't sit anymore. In winter, I went around with rheuma belts at the age of 25...

I tried some special gymnastics for strengthening the back muscles, but they didn't help. And then, at the age of 38 I started aikido, and the lower back pain just went AWAY. It took maybe some weeks or some months, I even don't recall, but now it's just GONE and never came back. So that is some miraculous healing, or maybe aikido just helped to relax where I didn't know how to relax before?

Back pain never affected ukemi. In the beginning, I was so much afraid of falling onto my head, which I did several times, that I didn't worry about the back, and once ukemi came out as it had to, back pain was long gone.:D

But one month before I had a rupture of cruciated ligaments in the left knee, also due to aikido, and as Abasan rightly said - it was not due to aikido, it was due to very wrong aikido. I made a stiff tai sabaki tearing my partner in an improper angle, so maybe it served me right.

So my advice would be - just start, probably it will do you good!

Best regards,

Eva

SeiserL 07-20-2009 12:37 PM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
Almost 59 (Oct) with back problems.
Still train 3 times a week.
Occasionally time off for injuries.
Learn to relax and roll properly.
Welcome to the mat.

Marie Noelle Fequiere 07-20-2009 02:14 PM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
Welcome to Aikido, David. The point to proper falling is actually to protect your back, and this knowledge can be extremely useful off the mat. I've heard people telling how good ukemi helped them when they tripped in stairs, or even fell off a horse.
I too have a bad back. Years before I started Aikido, I took a nasty fall, and even though I never went to a doctor, I believe that I had a fractured coccys.
Ukemi is not a problem for me, but, strangely enough, meditation is. Sensei sometimes have lie flat on our back to meditate, and I cannot tolerate this position for more than a few seconds before my lower back starts killing me and I have to bend my legs with my feet flat on the floor, wich makes relaxing my legs a challenge. Sensei has this ki exercise that he loves, when we have to imagine that our body is like a piece or steel. I notice that kids are just great at this exercise. They can be lifted from the floor and placed with their head on one chair, and their feet on another one, and another kid stands on their stomach, and they don't budge. This stunt is not for me, but it's not an exam requirement, so I'm fine.
Another problem is irimi nage practice. After having my partner bend me backward a few dozens of times, I have to ask permission to step to the side and stretch my back.
I also do stretching and strengthning exercises at home.
Just tell your instructor about your problem, but I promise you that it won't keep you from learning Aikido.
So again, welcome to the club, and have fun!

Ryan Seznee 07-21-2009 09:02 AM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
I seem to be alone on this, but my advice is not to push yourself. A lot of people I talked to have said it did not make their back pain worse, but I have yet to meet someone in person who have said that it actually helped their back out. I just don't think that is one if the benifits. I have seen three people leave our dojo due to back injuries, but they also went in with the impression that aikido would help their back problems. It did not, only agitated the problem.

I know a lot of people who have had sucess with yoga, though. I might suggest that, but stay away from power yoga.

BlueDevilfish 07-22-2009 12:27 AM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
Thanks to all for the helpful replies. It is encouraging that others with back problems have been able to manage this issue and maintain aikido practice.

I also heed the advice to be careful. Three or four years ago I couldn't have contemplated this but with the improvement I have had in the last couple of years I think it is a realistic possibility. I appreciate that a careful approach is in order and would certainly have a discussion about this with the instructor should I go ahead.

One of the dojos I am considering has most of the training sessions in the early morning (ie 6:30am!). This may be an advantage since it would minimize the amount of interference with family life (eg helping the kids with homework in the evenings) but I do wonder if it would be okay from the point of view that you tend to be a bit stiff in the morning and the back more vulnerable.

RED 07-26-2009 07:09 PM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
MY back is always hurting because of my job, and frankly taking ukemi irritates it. You got to know when to bow out and go stretch your back man.

Maarten De Queecker 07-31-2009 06:59 AM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
Quote:

David Reinhard wrote: (Post 235258)
Thanks to all for the helpful replies. It is encouraging that others with back problems have been able to manage this issue and maintain aikido practice.

I also heed the advice to be careful. Three or four years ago I couldn't have contemplated this but with the improvement I have had in the last couple of years I think it is a realistic possibility. I appreciate that a careful approach is in order and would certainly have a discussion about this with the instructor should I go ahead.

One of the dojos I am considering has most of the training sessions in the early morning (ie 6:30am!). This may be an advantage since it would minimize the amount of interference with family life (eg helping the kids with homework in the evenings) but I do wonder if it would be okay from the point of view that you tend to be a bit stiff in the morning and the back more vulnerable.

Just remember to take things really slow in the beginning, and you should be ok. Also make sure your fellow students know you have problems with your back, so they can adapt to the situation.

Kevin Leavitt 07-31-2009 07:56 AM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
I have Spondylosis (Degenerative Disc Disease). Army has put me on permanent profile, which means I am not allowed or required to run or do any high impact stuff anymore. Recent MRI of my C spine shows severe injury and trauma. Got it done because one day about a month ago when working on the computer at work my Right arm went numb.

Was told to stop taking hard impacts on my spine if I wanted to be able to walk 20 years from now.

Bummed out I can't do Judo anymore. Still doing BJJ though, but I am careful about impact.

I think it is good for your spine to stretch, twist, articulate and move. In many respects Aikido will be very helpful in this area. Trained properly it should improve your spinal health.

However, ukemi can be a bitch and many beginners (and experience folks too!) take unecessary ukemi that is hard and incorrect too! This is what I would be concerned about if you have back problems.

That said, I have re-evaluated my practice and don't feel it needs to be this way, and have found no obstacles to practicing aikido waza and maintaining good spinal health.

Mark Freeman 07-31-2009 09:27 AM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
David,

you can see from the above posts that you will not be the only one practicing aikido with a back problem. I had one before I started, and still have one now many years later, however, I have only missed a few practices in that time. I feel that continuous practice has helped keep me flexible and in recent years, now I have learned to move completely from my centre, helped protect my back and from making matters worse.

Aikido exercises performed poorly and with uneccessary tension can put strain on the lower back in particular. So always err on the side of caution, learn to roll correctly. High/hard breakfalls do not have to be engaged in until you are ready ( IMHO they are generally to no-ones benefit - apart from making the thrower look good:) )

If you have a choice of aikido clubs in your area, watch them, notice how the teacher handles the students that may not be young/fit/athletic (there will definitely be some). Notice how the students practice, is there respect for the limitations of the less able?

Anyway, my advice fwiw is, start, take care, enjoy the journey, you can always get off the aikido bus whenever you choose;)

regards

Mark

BlueDevilfish 07-31-2009 03:29 PM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
Thanks guys for the further advice. One of the Dojos I am considering is called World Aikido-Yoga. It seems the sensei is heavily into yoga as well as aikido. I haven't been to see one of their classes yet but I am guessing that maybe they use yoga style warm ups and stretching. I figure this may be an advantage. Here is a link:
http://www.aikidoaustralia.com/about...instructor.php

Kevin Leavitt 07-31-2009 04:43 PM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
looks like you might have a really good teacher there!

Al Gutierrez 07-31-2009 08:42 PM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
I would print out a copy of this thread and take it with you when you go to observe a class. Then when you talk to the instructor(s) give it to them and ask them to read it not only to familiarize them with your concerns but also to show what others have shared here.

Best of luck, to you.

Al Gtz.

BlueDevilfish 08-01-2009 07:23 AM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
Hi Al,

that sounds like a good idea. Thanks.

Suru 08-01-2009 06:51 PM

Re: Aikido with a back injury
 
A neighbor and acquaintance I knew awhile ago had looked into Aikido, including speaking with me about it. He has hardcore medical problems with his back, causing significant pain, and takes I suppose a medium dose of a prescription opiate every day. He was feeling enthusiastic about the possibility of training. I did a mae ukemi in the snow and maybe he felt he couldn't do it. Well, I think that's pretty much the status quo for people beginning Aikido. I told him I have met a woman who is moderately high up in the Aikdo ranks, a black belt whom has never done rolls. I told my neighbor that there are probably some things he wouldn't be able to do, but that there are also plenty of things he would be able to do. I haven't seen or heard from him in months, but I hope he has given himself a chance with Aikido. I told him that it might be tough looking at others during certain movements, and thinking, "I wish I could do that." But I said to him that if he is able to get over such thoughts, Aikido might be right for him.

I'm actually getting teary-eyed now, so if he ever reads this, I send him my absolute best.

Drew


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