Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Bad For Your Back?

Kid rolling on his back in BJJ

Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu bad for your back?  If you focus on learning the general basics and practice correct form, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is perfectly safe for someone with a healthy back. However, BJJ is a combat sport and during intense training or competition there’s always a chance of injury.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) can be intense. For those with a bad back, it is probably not the best choice, as it can cause strain to your lower back and spine, even when done correctly.

However, there’s ways to practice BJJ that can help protect your back from a related injury or strain. But how do you do that? First let’s start off by telling you a little about what BJJ is.

What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Most martial art forms are reactive in nature when it comes to self-defense. You will usually learn mostly reactive moves to help you stun, shock, or disable your opponent, therefore giving yourself time to get to safety or find help. 

The difference with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that you are taught proactive steps, through grappling or ground fighting to establish control.

BJJ moves force your opponent to submit or surrender. You are also taught skills that allow you to have more control over the fight and the outcome.

While Jiu Jitsu still maintains the theme of self-defense, it allows you to dictate the outcome of the situation as well as maintaining a higher level of safety.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is also great for staying active. So rather than going to the gym or participating in other hobby sports, more adults are turning to BJJ for something new.

Ground fighting in BJJ

Many striking martial arts focus on being able to attack your opponent and defending yourself from a standing position.  Most of these martial art forms will usually teach you a few things in case you are knocked down, but they normally teach you to get back to your feet.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a grappling style martial art and teaches it’s students to fight on the ground.

Either it will be helpful when needing to take your opponent down to the ground, or when they take you to the ground and try to use their weight or stature against you.

Winning the fight will be done using wrestling type moves and forcing the attacker to submit or surrender. 

In the most basic terms, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches you to use your hands, legs, weight, and leverage to pin and immobilize your opponent and uses joint locks and choke holds to incapacitate attackers. With BJJ even the smallest of people can force attackers to submit or surrender.

It’s been said that most street fights end up on the ground. So being able to control a fight on the ground or having the skills to take someone down and control them in a dangerous situation is what makes Jiu Jitsu such a great option for everyday self-defense.

Why Jiu Jitsu Can Cause Back Pain


Sparring in BJJ is referred to as “rolling” because it looks as if the two people engaged are rolling around on the ground. Rolling is where most injuries are likely to happen. So it’s good to be aware of the potential injury risks involved when training.

There are only a few positions in Jiu Jitsu that can really put you back in risk of injury. These are likely to affect your lumbar, spine and neck areas or the muscles around them. 

There are three positions to be on the lookout for when protecting your back

Keeping your back, hips, and core tight and engaged helps out with protecting your lumbar spine from over-extension or being compressed too much. 

Tapping is better than the long term damage that can be done to your spinal column

Remember that BJJ is a combat sport and during intense sparring and competitive matches anything can happen. Your back and other areas of your body are always at risk of injury.

Here are the Most Common Injuries in BJJ

Poor or Incorrect Form 

When beginning any sport, martial arts, or training, you have a few basic moves or positions that are going to be the basis for everything else you are likely to learn.

When learning these basic stances and moves, your form is the most important thing. 

You will be expected to build off of these moves with every new level of learning. Lazy or bad form at the beginning usually results in bad form all the way through unless caught and corrected before any harm is done.

Bad form in any element can lead to quite a few problems, such as:

  • Loss of balance when completing skills or moves
  • Increased chance of injury to yourself or others
  • Limited ability to build strength when working out different muscle groups

Bad posture

Most lifestyles contain personal bad habits that contribute to back issues. Adding any extra physical training will likely expose the weak spots your back or core may have.

The most common bad habits that contribute to back issues are:

  • Bad posture
  • Minimal -or nonexistent- focus on core strength while training
  • Poor focus on form in training 
  • Overworking your back and causing strain.

New studies have shown that as the popularity of tablets and cell phones increases, the amount of neck and back problems that doctors have seen is also increasing.  

Anything from watching TV to working at your desk are times where your posture has the opportunity to be poor.

You want your back to be flush with the back of the chair, your shoulders to be lowered and pushed back as well as your neck straight. 

So, think about your posture when practicing BJJ on and off the mats because bad posture in your day to day routines can lead to back pain when you’re training BJJ.

Correcting back issues while practicing Jiu Jitsu

When trying to figure out how to fix back issues, you always have to start with discovering the cause of the back pain. 

  • If you have a bone or cartilage issue, you are going to need to see a doctor for any course of treatment. 
  • For a muscle or unidentifiable back issue, you always want to begin with modifying your training regimen to a less intense type of workout.  Sometimes it may be necessary to cut out training altogether until your back heals.  

Certain stretches and strengthening exercises for your lower back are going to help build the muscle strength around your lumbar spine and allow for more protection or over-extension.

Yoga is also a very good option to help your body heal while maintaining your flexibility and re-centering your core. 

Use caution when trying to correct back issues. It is better to lose some strength or training days than have a long-term injury that you have to deal with for the rest of your life.

So always make sure to protect your spine, no matter what. Your spine is the basis of your nervous system, and any damage to that can potentially affect other limbs.

Overall, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a fantastic art form to learn for self-defense. If you are smart, take care of your body, keep your core strong and healthy, you should have no problem learning and practicing the art.


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