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Martial Arts

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:22 AM in Exercise and Rehab

I have been diagnosed with Spinal Stenosis caused by Short Pedicle Syndrome. I have been having more days with more severe pain lately. I just started some physial therapy to see if it can help with some of the pain. Nothing as severe as what most folks on here have experienced, but I wonder what the future holds.

And now to my question: I have been taking Tae Kwon Do with my daughters for almost 2 years and we have a great time together. Well, my doctor just told me that it is time to give up Tae Kwon Do :( .

So, what do you think, will the martial arts speed up the damage/degeneration to my back, is the doctor right or does the exercise it gives me outweigh any negatives? Does anyone out there participate in martial arts ?



  • I run and play soccer, but I would never engage in martial arts after having a cervical fusion in February of 2006. In running and soccer, I can use my muscles to basically keep my spine rigid and well supported, minimizing bending.

    As you probably know better than me, many martial arts require lots of spinal contortion, particularly those that employ Katas. Your doctor will give you the best advice, but for sure I personally would be against a return to competitive martial arts or any sparring.

    By the way, Bruce Lee was a chronic pain victim, due to a damaged back. Many people theorize that his death had something to do with the heavy pain killers he was taking. Also, Pat Morita of The Karate Kid fame had his entire back fused when he was a child. He managed to lead an active life and even made martial arts films. However, I have to think that he tempered his training very much.

    Funny as it sounds, I think being an NFL lineman puts less stress on the back than for a martial artist.

    Best of luck.

    Cheers, Mate
  • I just had a 360 fusion L5-S1 a little more than 13 weeks ago, and I have every intenetion of returning to Tae Kwon Do training, when the time comes. I would break it down for your doc. explain that there is a lot of stretching, and conditioning involved. Then explain the tuls (patterns), explain line drills, discuss staying away from bag work or contact sparring. 1, 2 and 3 steps sparring shouldn't be a problem, but breakfalls may not be a good idea. Non-contact sparring may be OK, depending on if you have a partner who will be willing to do that. If you discuss it with him in this way, there may be parts you could still do.
    But talk to the doc about it.

    I have trained for over ten year prior to my injury. My boys are 19 III dan and 17 I dan (testing for II in Sept) and compete internationally. We recently spent a week in Canada at the Grand Master Park World Cup. We are part of the Global TaeKwon Do Federation. My 19 year old was a member of TEAM USA. Two years ago they went to Sardinia, Italy for the world championships, as part of the USA jr Team (Placed 2nd as a team in patterns) and my 7 year old is a yellow belt who went to Canada for his first international tournament..he was so excited came back with 2 medals.

    Good luck
    Anna (check out my thread under....good news)
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  • And unfortunately, have been unable to resume doing it since my car accident...I tried twice to attend classes (this was back when my docs thought I was going to get better) and due to the neck, shoulder, arm pain I simply could not keep up, and my doctors told me NO WAY! I miss it like crazy, I wish I could go back and maybe someday I'll be able to, but black belt testing with a cervical fusion :O , I don't see it as part of my future! Every once in a while I'll still do the heians just for fun, but I can't see myself being able to do shotokan again...But I know there's a big difference between shotkan karate and Tae Kwon Do, so I can't say anything for certain.
  • Thanks to everyone for your reply. It helps to hear from others and their experiences and how they have dealt with the challenges.
  • I was taking MMA classes, I was training for a tournament, 4 -5 times a week/2hr. classes. I then injured my back, two discs bulging and torn. That was 4 weeks ago and I am still in pain. I am unable to sit for any length of time and I have very limited range of motion. I am being told not to go back to classes. I am out for at least the next month or two, then we will re-evalutate based on my PT and Dr's approval. But I know how you feel!! It is horrible! But - if your doctor is saying no, it is probably best not to try.

    You may want to try some of the meditations/flexibility training or light warmups if your doctor thinks that will be okay - but before you try anything - def speak with them.

    Good luck and I hope you feel better!

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  • Hi Chris -- I'm glad I came across your post because I am going through the same thing.

    I got my first degree black belt in taekwondo in March. Leading up to that I had the occasional back pain but pretty much shrugged it off or attributed it to my increased level and intensity of training leading up to my testing. All was well till Labor Day weekend, a little over a month ago. Out of nowhere I started experiencing crazy back spasms and couldn't do anything for 4 days. It went away for a couple of weeks then happened again, so I finally called the doc. After an xray he told me I had arthritis in my spine and I was off to the physical therapist.

    I am only 38, not overweight and consider myself to be in good shape so I was shocked to have my therapist say "no way" to taekwondo. It is such a big part of my famiy's life (my husband is also a black belt, and my 9-year-old tests for his first degree in January.) So basically, it sucks. But I would hate to continue doing it having all this information from my doctor and therapist that clearly says not to and suffer from chronic pain in 10-20 years.

    My focus has shifted from the TKD to exercises that srengthen my abs and back to minimize future damage. I actually see getting this diagnosis this early as a blessing. I may end up in better shape and get those dang rock hard abs that have eluded me for all those years after all!

    I hope you don't think I am minimizing how hard this is for you. I KNOW it sucks to sit on the sidelines. There ARE modifications your instructors can do to make it less stressful on your back, but if you are anything like me it would be very easy to "forget" and overdo it if you are having a particularly pain-free day. Plus I have a really hard time going back to class and doing it 50% after going at it 110% for so long, but that could just be my own issue! ;-)

    But there is a lot of other stuff out that to do and you can certainly still support your daughters and feel connected to the sport. Your diagnoses isn't a death sentence -- and just because it may be the end of one chapter in your life, it could be the beginning of a totally new and exciting one as well.

    Hang in there!
  • Have you thought of a weapons based system - arnis/escrima/kali, iaido, kendo, kenjutsu?

  • I know how hard it can be to give up what you love doing all of a sudden. I'm 24 and currently a Sergeant in the Marine Corps. I had a similar experience as most people here. I had minor back aches for the last couple of years and just ignored it, mainly due to my job. 2 weeks ago, I started having sharp spasms in my back, worse than ever, and decided to finally get it checked out. The Docs did an x-ray and told my I had spinal stenosis. I've been doing martial arts almost all of my life; most recently I was training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the last year and 4 months and completely fell in love with the sport. I was hoping I'd be able to continue practicing bjj my entire life. Now the doctors are very hesistant at best and are telling me to wait a few months for the results of my Physical Therapy. They say most likely, I will have to find a different sport all together. There's also alot of talk of early separation from the Marines as well. I still have hope that everything will turn out for the better and like many people said, "open a new chapter in my life." I'm very lucky because I have a loving wife to help me through all of it. Best of luck to you and keep your spirits high.
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