Battle-Scarred Sciatica: How I’m Dealing With Sciatic Pain on The BJJ Mats

In a grand fit of irony the universe seems to readily dish out to all of us, I suffered a lower back injury followed by severe, sciatic pain a few weeks after writing a piece detailing how I solved my lower back issues. I was doing some light deadlifts to warm up when I felt a sudden jolt in my hip and back. Hilarious stuff (Sort of :-/).

Hexes, curses and twists of fate aside, what initially seemed a minor issue graduated into probably the most painful thing I’ve experienced outside of watching Krista S. slow dancing with Brian M. in the 7th grade while Faithfully repeatedly stabbed me in the heart (Side note: This was my Ham on Rye moment minus the boils and severe alcoholism).

Adolescent pathos notwithstanding, the shooting, sciatic pain I experienced last week felt like being tortured with a cattle prod by some vicious leather daddy I didn’t even attempt to hire. A sharp, ferocious pain kept jolting my back and hip when I attempted to stand, walk or even adjust in my sleep.

McKenzie Exercises

Alongside a judicious amount of rest and ibuprofen, what helped a ton in finally mitigating the incessant sharp pain were McKenzie exercises*. Years ago a physical therapist recommended McKenzie exercises to me after I wrecked my back snowboarding. So with the help of Bob and Brad, YouTube’s most famous physical therapists, I returned to these therapeutic exercises just about every hour on the hour for almost a week.

In particular, the following vid was a huge help:

An Ounce of Prevention

The pain has finally receded back into whatever hellish hole it came from though my piriformis alongside the rest of my hip remains pretty tight. I’ve recommitted to foam rolling and stretching every night.

In truth, I didn’t heed my own advice. I’d experienced Piriformis Syndrome a few times over the years due to excessively tight hips, but lately I’d been feeling pretty footloose and fancy-free around the ol‘ buttocks. I neglected stretching and foam rolling over the last few months even though I was consistently rolling on the BJJ mats twice a week alongside lifting and sprinting. This proved an incredibly unwise move on my part and I’m certain it contributed to my injury.

Now I feel like issuing some warning to everyone a la Coleridge’s ancient mariner. Instead of an albatross though I’m hanging a foam roller around my neck for the next couple of weeks:

I’m also forced to ease back onto the BJJ mats like some elderly octogenarian entering the pool at the local YMCA. I will probably just do light drilling over the next week or two to make sure I don’t aggravate the injury or adversely effect the healing process. It sucks, but so it goes.

If you’ve experienced or are experiencing sciatic pain please share any and all tips you have with dealing it.


*If the pain had worsened or not abated at all I would have visited my doctor. In my experience though, doctors can be incredibly ignorant around sports-related injuries. Worse, they can be quite dogmatic in their approaches to injuries and ailments in general. Some of the craziest shit I’ve heard has been from doctors including a Stanford-trained cardiologist who suggested that HIV might be transferred through tears.

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