Pain Management Techniques for Combat Fighters
To some casual observer of a combat fight, it may seem like the combatants in the ring are oblivious to pain. However, the way each fighter releases assault after assault on the other fighter, only to have the opposing fighter return the favor, makes it look like neither combatant is feeling any pain at all. Is it possible that, much like people in auto accidents, the fighters do not feel the pain until after the match?
Actually, quite the opposite is true. Your body’s natural reaction to getting hit is to issue pain signals to the brain to let you know there is an issue. Often, especially with severe injuries and broken bones, those areas remain more sensitive to pain than other areas. It is the body’s way of protecting itself from further injury to that specific area.
So yes, fighters do feel pain while in the ring and for days and weeks after the match. So how does a fighter manage pain when it is woven into the very fabric of the sport they are participating in? There are many options available, and we will cover a few in this guide to give you an idea of what is available.
See a Doctor After Each Fight
The first step in fighting pain is to ensure nothing was severely damaged during a fight. No amount of ice and ibuprofen will take away the pain of a broken wrist bone. You might need x-rays to determine if that swelling will subside or if you have a fracture that needs to be set.
And don’t think that all severe injuries are breaks. For example, one of the leading injuries in MMA and other fighting competitions is to the shoulder. One reason is for hyper-extension of a jab in boxing or throwing your opponent to the mat in Judo. In MMA, injuries to the shoulder and elbow are often caused by an armbar. In any case, you may need something set or incapacitated in a proper sling to heal correctly.
Regarding injuries that are not as obvious, concussions definitely top the list in that department. Even if you think you’re fine, you may experience headaches, blurry vision, or other signs of a concussion. This is a severe injury because if you don’t rest your brain for the required amount of time to heal, a re-injury, even a small one, could lead to permanent brain damage.
Natural Pain Management
Since pain is a natural part of training and competing in combat sports, you will need to learn to manage it. Obviously, there are narcotics and opioids. But we’re going to steer clear of those because of the health and addiction repercussions that are often associated with these pharmaceuticals.
However, prescription anti-inflammatories can be helpful, and ibuprofen is always great for reducing pain and inflammation.
Nothing beats ice when it comes to immediate relief from pain and inflammation. A bag of ice on the affected area does wonders to bring immediate relief from pain and keep down the inflammation. Wrap the ice or ice pack in a towel and apply for as long as you can, then take a break. But after a period, reapply the ice pack for as long as you can tolerate it.
If you have multiple injuries, you’ll want to consider an ice bath. You may be lucky enough to have access to a facility that provides ice tubs. If not, you can always create one in your home bathtub with some cold water and a bag of ice.
Natural Anti-inflammatories & Pain Reducers
There are many essential oils and other natural herbs known as anti-inflammatories and naturally aid in reducing pain. Here are a few that we’ve found.
Many people have found relief from inflammation and pain by using certain essential oils. However, you need to be careful when choosing a product that contains essential oils. Most of these products also contain carrier oil to enhance the essential oil’s absorption and provide other benefits. These oils are to be applied topically, and you should never ingest any essential oil product.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate the ingredients and dosages in these products, so you need to be careful to make sure the product contains no harmful elements before using it. If you can’t find a product that comes with a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from an independent lab, then look for a product with many positive reviews. We’ve found that some of the most popular and effective essential oils are:
Note that some of these oils may cause an allergic reaction or asthmatic attack, so use them with caution.
While more research needs to be done to understand how effectively cloves can relieve pain, a 2006 study found that clove gel was as effective as the benzocaine gel dentists use to reduce pain from needle injections. In addition, some research has suggested that clove oil also contains anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antioxidant, and antifungal properties.
Capsaicin has been used for years as a natural pain reliever, and is present in chili peppers. While it is known to cause a mild tingling or burning sensation when applied topically, researchers believe it reduces the skin’s sensitivity to pain by working on the nerves that carry pain signals (nociceptive fibers).
This root shows promise as a natural pain reliever and may reduce inflammation and accelerate recovery. The systemic review found that ingesting two grams of ginger per day for at least five days reduced muscle pain in those tested. In addition, ginger is easy to implement into your diet by adding raw ginger to teas or smoothies.
Feverfew is a medicinal plant that is also called bachelor’s buttons or featherfew. This plant has traditionally been used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, stomach aches, toothaches, and migraine headaches. However, it can cause side effects like vomiting, abdominal pain, and nausea, and it may also increase your risk of bleeding. So you should consult your physician before you try Feverfew.
The active ingredient in Turmeric is Curcuma and has long been known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Turmeric is easy to add to your diet as a cooking spice (think Indian cuisine) or by adding it to smoothies or teas. There are also many Turmeric supplements available online.
CBD and Delta 8 THC
There has been a lot of buzz about the wellness effects of CBD and Delta 8 THC recently, and with good reason.
The human endocannabinoid system was discovered just decades ago. This system comprises three parts: Endocannabinoids, CB1 and CBD2 receptors located in your nervous system and throughout your body, and enzymes that break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids.
This endocannabinoid system has been found to help keep your body in homeostasis and assists in the control of things such as pain, sleep, appetite, and several other functions.
The cannabis plant produces what are known as phytocannabinoids. They are generally just referred to as cannabinoids and include CBD and Delta 8 THC. When ingested, these phytocannabinoids work within the body’s endocannabinoid system to enhance its ability to function. Therefore, supplementing your wellness routine with the kind of premium quality CBD and Delta 8 THC products like you’ll find at The Fight Doctor will go a long way in helping you to manage the discomforts you will feel after a workout or fight.
Chiropractic adjustments are used to relieve the musculoskeletal issues associated with some medical conditions. This treatment involves the manipulation of the spine and other areas of the body through the controlled application of pressure. These adjustments are meant to ease body pain and other disorders of the ligaments, bones, muscles, and nerves.
Combat fighters are susceptible to neck and back injuries from extensive training and from the fights themselves. Chiropractic techniques such as roller or traction table adjustments can reduce tightness in the lower, middle, and upper back regions, and ultrasound therapy can reduce swelling in the back and neck muscles.
When it comes to a dislocated shoulder from an armbar, a direct blow to the shoulder, or some other extreme arm rotation, it may be best to see an orthopedist physician.
Pain associated with muscle trauma can also be relieved with physical therapies. Techniques like trigger point therapy, cold laser therapy, and massages can relieve the tightness and stiffness in the affected muscles and strengthen them.
While acupuncture remains controversial in Western medical and scientific circles, Eastern practitioners have used it for centuries. Acupuncture is a treatment that involves inserting very thin needles at various depths through a person’s skin and at specific points in the body. Some believe that this technique has a neurological effect, while others claim it works by balancing vital energy.
While there is no scientific proof that acupuncture (meridian) points exist in the body, some experts have used neuroscience to explain its effectiveness. The reason is that acupuncture points are places where muscles, nerves, and connective tissue can be stimulated. This stimulation triggers the activity of the body’s natural painkillers and increases blood flow.
The treatment begins after the acupuncturist examines the patient and assesses their condition. The patient then lies down on their front, back, or side. The acupuncturist then inserts disposable, single-use, sterile needles in specific areas of the patient’s body. These needles stay in place for five to 30 minutes, then removed.
Disclaimer from The Fight Doctors
The content on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
Keep in mind that we at TheFightDoctors.com offer medical packages with specialized exams should you need them. We also offer in-person physicals and eye exams should you be in the Spartanburg, SC area.