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Old 02-15-2008, 03:59 PM   #1
dave9nine
Dojo: Aikido Institute - Oakland
Location: Oakland
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 80
United_States
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back pain and aikido

Hello all,
in my first post here, i was wondering (especially from some of the old yudansha) what steps folks have taken to relieve or prevent strain on the back during training. I've been an uchi deshi at my dojo for almost a year now, and while the day to day training has not necessarily worn me down, I have started to notice a general soreness in my (lower) back that, while it may have started a while back from a certain high fall that I can recall with clarity, now it just kinda lingers and even seems to be agitated during weapons practice in particular.
With regards to weapons, and especially the jo, I have come to notice that over-extension (forward) can definitely put a strain on the lower back, but in general it seems hard to put proper extension (sensei and sempai always talk about the importance of extension with weapons) in the suburi without tightening/clenching/compressing the back. How can one do both things at once?
Also, in general, my observation of yudansha who have been around the block is that back pains--especially lower back--are quite common. Does this say more about Aikido in general, or more about particular habits that people develop during training that are hard to overcome. If it's the latter, what are those habits?
I want to have a long Aikido career, and I hope to gather some wisdom from som folks who know the ropes.
Thanks in advance.
-Dave
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Old 02-15-2008, 05:06 PM   #2
Robert Cowham
Dojo: East Sheen Aikido and Kashima No Tachi
Location: London, UK
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 237
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Re: back pain and aikido

Hi Dave

One of the things that attracted me to aikido 20 years ago was the idea that age was not an issue. Indeed a friend of mine referred to aikido as "old man's judo"!

Since then I have learned a few lessons:

- if you keep on studying you can keep getting better

- your responsibility for your own body remains yours - don't abdicate it to anyone else. This is a hard lesson, and most of us learn it a little too late!

So, at the grand old age of 45 I am in generally reasonable shape, but do have a dodgy knee - (ligaments stretched during suwariwaza ikkyo ura - I pivoted but portions of the knee didn't). Since then I have no problems sitting out suwariwaza or generally looking after myself - and rather wish I had paid more attention earlier.

Back pains for me have occurred from time to time, but in general I have actually found practice, and in particular warm up via gentle stretching is actually better than rest. But not always. You need to become sufficiently aware of your own body to make a judgement call.

Look after yourself - this is a long term game!

One thought - the more sensitive you become the more you can look after your own body, but also the better your aikido is likely to become.

Best wishes
Robert
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Old 02-15-2008, 10:13 PM   #3
Bronson
 
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Dojo: Seiwa Dojo and Southside Dojo
Location: Battle Creek & Kalamazoo, MI
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,677
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Re: back pain and aikido

Hi Dave,

Here's my experience. I was having some chronic back pain that osteopathic adjustments, and OTC pain relievers wasn't getting rid of. I had it checked out and it turns out I had stress fractures in my 4th lumbar verterbra.

Off to physical therapy I went. The first thing the PT does is check my posture and finds I have a forward rotated pelvis (I've got a belly). This is causing too much lordosis in the lumbar spine. After a few weeks of exercises and stretching my back pain was mostly gone. I continued with the program on my own (and still do) and haven't had a recurrence. My Dr. also put me on a daily anti-inflammatory used for arthritis pain.

Core strength and proper pelvic position is extremely important. I had to do a lot of ab and low back work to achieve a muscular balance to allow the pelvis to sit in the correct spot. I still have to be conscious about it or I find I'll get lazy and let it drop forward but it's getting more and more natural to be in the correct position.

If I get lazy for a couple of days and don't do the exercises or stretches like I should I can feel the dull ache start to come back and I jump right back on the wagon. But if I keep on the program I'm fine.

While this was going on I was taken off of ukemi. But now I've been cleared for any activity I want to do with the admonition to listen to my body and to realize that if I'm hittin' the mat hard and heavy I'm probably going to be sore the next day.

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 02-16-2008, 02:36 AM   #4
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Dojo: Wherever I am.
Location: South Korea, Yongin
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 789
United Kingdom
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Re: back pain and aikido

You'd better see a professional to get the true verdict. I have had a lot of pain over the years - now gone - and it was muscular, not bone etc. Basically, I had done too many of some exercises and not enough of the other to such an extent that It put strain on my back as some muscles were too weak to cope with the opposing stronger ones. Think - what muscles are you using / not using. What directions are you exercising in most, and make sure you counter it etc. Well, that was the source of my problem.

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Old 02-16-2008, 06:11 AM   #5
SeiserL
 
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Dojo: Roswell Budokan, Kyushinkan Dojo, Aikido World Alliance
Location: Roswell, GA USA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,715
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Re: back pain and aikido

IMHO, us older (57) guys with back pain (4 disc bulges in the lumbar region) are just older with more mileage. Can't blame it on Aikido.
I have found that watching form and alignment really make a difference. Having the humility and wisdom to not take take too many hard ukemi helps me too.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 02-16-2008, 09:22 AM   #6
grondahl
Dojo: Stockholms Aikidoklubb
Location: Stockholm
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 550
Sweden
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Re: back pain and aikido

Your probably over-extending with an arched back when doing bukiwaza. Not an unusual bad habit amongst Iwama-stylists. Try to slow down the weapons and focus on form and forget about power for a while.

Quote:
Dave Lewin wrote: View Post
With regards to weapons, and especially the jo, I have come to notice that over-extension (forward) can definitely put a strain on the lower back, but in general it seems hard to put proper extension (sensei and sempai always talk about the importance of extension with weapons) in the suburi without tightening/clenching/compressing the back. How can one do both things at once?
Also, in general, my observation of yudansha who have been around the block is that back pains--especially lower back--are quite common.
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Old 02-17-2008, 05:42 PM   #7
Ewan Wilson
Location: Glasgow
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 28
Scotland
Offline
Re: back pain and aikido

Quote:
Bronson Diffin wrote: View Post
Hi Dave,

Here's my experience. I was having some chronic back pain that osteopathic adjustments, and OTC pain relievers wasn't getting rid of. I had it checked out and it turns out I had stress fractures in my 4th lumbar verterbra.

Off to physical therapy I went. The first thing the PT does is check my posture and finds I have a forward rotated pelvis (I've got a belly). This is causing too much lordosis in the lumbar spine. After a few weeks of exercises and stretching my back pain was mostly gone. I continued with the program on my own (and still do) and haven't had a recurrence. My Dr. also put me on a daily anti-inflammatory used for arthritis pain.

Core strength and proper pelvic position is extremely important. I had to do a lot of ab and low back work to achieve a muscular balance to allow the pelvis to sit in the correct spot. I still have to be conscious about it or I find I'll get lazy and let it drop forward but it's getting more and more natural to be in the correct position.

If I get lazy for a couple of days and don't do the exercises or stretches like I should I can feel the dull ache start to come back and I jump right back on the wagon. But if I keep on the program I'm fine.

While this was going on I was taken off of ukemi. But now I've been cleared for any activity I want to do with the admonition to listen to my body and to realize that if I'm hittin' the mat hard and heavy I'm probably going to be sore the next day.

Bronson
now that's an interesting post. good stuff Bronson.
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Old 02-17-2008, 06:44 PM   #8
asiawide
Location: Seoul
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 120
Offline
Re: back pain and aikido

Recently I heard, 'Your waist isn't a hinge. But pelvis is.'. So I looked at myself while playing with bokken and jo. (and some basic kamae too..) So, I found out that my waist area is too much pulled back along the back foot while my belly is pushed front along the extended arms or weapons. Read the following article.

http://www.fightingarts.com/content01/mechanics.shtml
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Old 02-17-2008, 08:17 PM   #9
Chris Parkerson
Dojo: Academy of the Martial Arts
Location: ohio
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 740
United_States
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Re: back pain and aikido

if it turns out to be muscular rather than bone or discs, Rolfing massage is fantastic. It will loosen the tightness at the origin and insertions of the muscular structure. After just 2 or 3 visits you are aligned properly and keeping good posture is less frustrating. Chiropracty just doesn't stick for very long. Rolfing hits the source of muscle, tendon and fascia imbalance.
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Old 06-17-2008, 09:10 AM   #10
Claude Geeroms
Dojo: Aikido School of Central Ohio/Columbus, OH
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 3
United_States
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Re: back pain and aikido

This is a topic near and dear to me. I believe I aggravated a back condition about a year ago by taking a forward breakfall on a crowded mat. to avoid a collision, I "scrunched" myself to avoid hitting someon else. Anyway, after getting this checked out, I had cortisone injection done, which helped. Later, one of my aikido students told me about a system of stretching developed by Richard Rossiter called "Rossiter workouts". These stretches are VERY effective at dealing with pain quickly. I've been to rolfers, MD's, DO's, chiros, massage, done ice and Aleve, etc, but I've found Rossiter stuff to be very helpful for me, and they don't take long to do. Worth checking out, IMO.
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Old 06-20-2008, 07:32 PM   #11
Mark Uttech
Dojo: Yoshin-ji Aikido of Marshall
Location: Wisconsin
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,218
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Re: back pain and aikido

Onegaishimasu. In my experience, every other day training works healthwise;bodywise. This is because after a day's training, the body tends to be stiff the next day and so more susceptible to injury.

In gassho,

Mark

- Right combination works wonders -
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Old 06-21-2008, 06:55 AM   #12
lbb
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,806
United_States
Offline
Re: back pain and aikido

Quote:
Robert Cowham wrote: View Post
- your responsibility for your own body remains yours - don't abdicate it to anyone else. This is a hard lesson, and most of us learn it a little too late!
...
One thought - the more sensitive you become the more you can look after your own body, but also the better your aikido is likely to become.
That's really it, in a nutshell. By all means, you want to try and isolate the specific problem you're dealing with, or at least figure it out as much as you can. Don't be too surprised, however, if there isn't a singular fix, and if 99% of that fix isn't a pill or a therapy or a treatment, but things that you yourself can do. It's just that these things aren't "smoking guns", with an obvious direct cause-and-effect connection. For example, carrying around extra weight, particularly around the middle, tends to make you adopt bad posture that can make injury more likely when you come under stress. Likewise, poor aerobic conditioning can lead to stumbling around. Lack of flexibility, well, we all know about that one. But none of these is the sort of thing where you'd say, "Hey, lose 20 pounds or you're going to have a back injury." So people don't do what they need to minimize the likelihood of injury, and even after they get injured, they tend not to do these things, because they don't get an immediate and total fix.

I really believe that physical health is best tackled with a shotgun approach: hit it with a lot of different stuff, try to understand what each individual pellet is contributing, don't expect any one pellet to do the job all by itself or right away. Something to think about.
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