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Alphington Physio Matt Ho talks BJJ neck injuries and pain

Jiu Jitsu:  A real pain in the neck

By Matt Ho


Even to a completely inexperienced grappler, it would come as no surprise that Jiu Jitsu can be problematic for the neck.  In a sport where the aim is to control, strangle and submit your opponent, the neck is often a key  pillar in a wide range of attacks.  So if, like me, you have suffered neck pain after a jiu jitsu session, read on!

Why is my neck sore?

In most instances, one or more of the structures in the neck have been pushed beyond their normal ranges of movement.  The musculature of the neck, ligaments and the cervical discs are all responsible for neck stability, and if these tissues can be stretched beyond their limits, often leading to damage and pain.  A guillotine, for example, flexes and rotates the neck past the normal tissue limits, and can lead to structural disruption and short and long term neck pain.  Nerves exiting the spinal cord can also be affected, leading to pain, pins and needles and numbness in one or both arms. 


 What should I do if I have pain in my neck?               

If the pain is severe enough, present to the emergency department (obviously!)

Whenever soft tissues are injured, there are a few objectives within the first 3 days:

-Reduce pain:  use ice initially (first few days) to modulate pain in a 20 on/2 hour off regime.  Also use some basic analgesia, such as paracetamol, to maintain function

-Mobilisation:  whilst sore, it is important to maintain some movement in the neck.  After the initial day/s, start to gently mobilise the neck actively.

-Restore function:  try to get back to normal activities as fast as possible:  This is part of your recovery

-Avoid rolling:  This seems obvious, but rarely do Jiu Jitsu athletes take enough time off when injured.  If the pain hasn’t improved, don’t roll, just drill!


When do I need to see someone?

The neck is an important and delicate area, so caution should always be exhibited when dealing with neck injuries.  There are no and fast rules  relating to neck injuries in Jiu Jitsu, but see a health practitioner (the emergency department on most occasions)  if any of the following occurred in the process of or as a result of injuring the neck:

-Loss of consciousness

-Pins and needles, numbness into the arms or legs

-Severe, unremitting pain in the neck or head

-sight disturbances

-Medium to long term symptoms:  If your symptoms have not resolved after a few weeks, this might be a good indication a physio visit could be beneficial. 


So hopefully this information improves your ability to manage your neck injuries, and you can get back to rolling as quickly as possible.

In the next blog post:  How to prevent injury and strengthen the neck

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