One of the most common injuries in jiu-jitsu is “joint hyperextension”. This occurs when a joint, usually an elbow, is pushed beyond its normal range of motion. Since one of the key principles in jujitsu is to attack the weak points in the body, this joint usually receives a lot of attention in practice.
Injuries in the martial arts do happen, especially in jiu-jitsu systems where self-defence and joint manipulation are constantly drilled.
Factors such as student (in)experience, movement or improper technique can cause injuries to you or your training partner.
Injuries are a fact of martial art life. After all, the more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in combat.
What should I do to fix an injury like a hyper-extended elbow?
My first advice is: go slow and be kind to your training partner. Never go full bore on your partner right from the start. We need to work in a spirit of cooperation in order to keep each other as safe and injury free as possible. Keep your ego in check and never try to show your stuff on someone who is willingly giving themselves to you. It is not only dangerous but it goes against the martial spirit that we foster in the dojo.
Now, having said that, accidents do happen. Often, when an elbow is stressed, tendons begin to stretch. If pushed harder, they begin to tear. When an elbow joint tears, all you’ll hear is some “popping sounds”, very similar to when you crack your knuckles. Your partner will most likely not feel anything immediately. This is because there are no nerves in the tendon area. However, within a minute or so, when the arm is back to its normal range of motion, you’ll notice a lack of movement (range), weakness, and a “dull ache” that will get worse with time.
If you should “tweak your elbow”, here are some things you can do to help tend to the problem.
Ice it immediately for 10 minutes. The cold will cause the swelling to go down. You then want to keep in an immobile position. Some Advil (Ibuprofen) will also help. If the elbow is tweaked or torn, you’ll need to lay off the jujitsu for a while. Depending on the severity of the injury, this could mean 1-4 weeks off. For us die hard, this can seem like an eternity. But you need to let the body start to heal itself.
Also, a great supplement for joint problems is something called glucosamine. Since glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, and glycosaminoglycans are a major component of joint cartilage, supplemental glucosamine may help to rebuild cartilage, treat arthritis, or help with the joint repair. It can be bought at any health food store.
However, one of my instructors told me about another natural remedy called “hydro-therapy”. Hydro-therapy uses ice as the main tool for repair. Here is how it works:
Dixie cups, water, and a topical solution called TRAMIL, a dish towel, and some cling wrap.
Take some Dixie cups and fill them with water. Place them in the freezer and let them freeze. Take a Dixie up out of the freezer and tear about 25% of the cup so the ice is exposed. Rub the Dixie cup over the affected area until the ice has melted down to the torn edge.
Next, use your thumb to push and massage the injured area. You need to really get that “digging deep shiatsu” pushing in order to (what my instructor called) “chase the pain”. After you have chased the pain for a few minutes, place some TRAMIL on the affected area. Do this once a day for seven days.
At night, wet a dish towel and place it in the freezer. When you are about to go to bed, wrap the frozen towel around your elbow and then wrap some cling wrap around the towel (so it stays in place and doesn’t get your bed wet). Go to sleep. Your arm will go numb after about 5 minutes. You’ll most likely wake up a few hours later and feel like your elbow is on fire (hot). This is because the body has been rushing blood to the affected area in order to warm it up.
Now here is the magical part. The body’s best defence against injuries is to flush an area (the muscle and joint area) with blood. The cold/hot hydro-therapy speeds up and maximizes the body’s natural healing system! Do this for seven nights.
This may sound crazy and strange but IT WORKS. And when you have an injury and everything seems not to be working, I suggest you take a good look at this article again. Take it from a guy who knows and has had his fair share of injuries – from scrapes, bumps, and bruises, to bloody noses, joint separations, and broken bones.