Injuries are an inevitable part of every sport, even more so in martial arts, where, regardless of how safely they are trained, each technique’s original intention is to hurt an opponent. Throat injuries are less common than many others but possible. Do you know why your throat may hurt after BJJ practice?
A sore throat usually happens in BJJ training due to a choke applying pressure to the trachea. The windpipe or neck muscles become sore, with pain when swallowing and a hoarse voice being the most common symptoms. Chokes using the lapel are the most common causes, but other air chokes can also result in a sore throat.
Some pain and discomfort in the throat must be accepted as an inevitable part of jiu-jitsu training, just like with other minor injuries, bumps, and bruises. Still, knowing how a sore throat happens and how to prevent it will make it less stressful when it happens.
Can BJJ Cause A Sore Throat?
BJJ can make every body part sore, even places you hadn’t thought possible to hurt. This can happen either from exertion and doing moves you are not used to or if someone applies a submission to you.
While I am sure everyone understands this, the throat is something few think of when considering possible injuries, but you can have a sore throat from BJJ.
This happens when a choke compresses your windpipe. The result is damage to the windpipe, neck muscles, or esophagus (the pipe food goes down in; it sits right behind the windpipe), resulting in pain while swallowing and a deep and raspy voice similar to what common colds often induce.
BJJ chokes are either blood chokes, which stop the blood flow to the brain by compressing the carotid arteries, or air chokes, which pressure the trachea.
The second kind is usually responsible for sore throats, but in reality, a technique often has elements of both air and blood choke so that you can experience throat problems even with so-called “blood chokes.”
Guillotines are the most common chokes, which can pressure the arteries and trachea depending on the angle at which they’re applied.
Lapel chokes are among the most common causes of sore throats. Moves like the bow and arrow, baseball bat, Ezekiel choke, and others are the most common culprits. If you train only no-gi, the list narrows, but there are still more than enough chokes that can bruise the throat.
Is It Normal To Have A Sore Throat After BJJ
Sore throats are normal, and many experience them early in training. Remember that in training, we are simulating murder by strangulation, so some unpleasant “bonuses” are to be expected even when you do everything correctly. Here is what you may experience as a result of a choke:
- Sore throat
- Pain when swallowing
- Hoarse voice
- Trouble breathing
The best way to prevent a sore throat is to tap out early. When you understand the danger to your windpipe, it’s better to tap as early as possible. Air chokes are highly unpleasant and can deal damage in an instant.
They can cause loss of conciseness only after 2-3 minutes, but the pain level is drastically higher than in blood chokes, making people tap early and often.
But sometimes, the pain can come instantly without much time to tap. In fact, one of the worst cases of a sore throat I’ve had has been from a triangle choke locked in a weird angle, which in theory, shouldn’t touch the windpipe.
But theory didn’t save me from having to whisper for a week. And even if you tap on time, drilling tons of chokes will inevitably lead to some bruising.
So, sore throats are entirely normal and to be expected early on in your training. For people with weak necks and no prior athletic experience, they will be more common. In time, you will learn when to tap, and your neck muscles will strengthen and condition.
Through endless drilling of things like guillotine and lapel chokes, your body will learn to tolerate much higher levels of pain and pressure, and the neck overall will be conditioned enough to rarely have a sore throat, if ever.
How To Treat A Sore Throat From A Choke
Like any other resource, I am obliged to say I am not a medical expert, which is not medical advice. But it’s one informed by personal experience and a lot of research.
Usually, a sore throat will heal itself. The damage is not permanent, and like bruising on any other part, the body will take care of it anywhere between a few days and a couple of weeks. You can go for some anti-inflammatory stuff to alleviate the pain faster.
As with general bruising, the cold helps, so you can use this opportunity as an excuse to eat more ice cream and drink cold stuff.
But if you hear something pop in the windpipe and have trouble breathing, immediately see a doctor. The other symptoms are not dangerous and will heal, but obstructed breathing can be life-threatening, so don’t be a tough guy and visit the doctor.
Should You Train BJJ With A Sore Throat
A sore throat is a bruise like any other, and training with it is a matter of finding the right solution. Missing practice when something hurts in martial arts means you will train once a month at best, so the best approach is to train around injuries.
If your throat hurts badly, you need to avoid any choke, but there are so many other techniques and things to learn. Inform your training partners and instructors your throat hurts, and you need to keep it safe and focus on things that will not aggravate and make it worse.
If you have some more serious damage, though, a complete rest may be a better solution, but in almost all cases, you can train around a sore throat by focusing on other areas of your game.
Overall, sore throats are common for beginners, even more so for those training with a gi. They happen due to chokes and are usually not a big deal. The body heals them like other bruises, and the good news is, in time, the neck strengthens and gets conditioned, so sore throats happen less and less often as you progress to the point they disappear entirely.