Physio 4 Surfing

Surfers suffer injuries from cuts, abrasions, sprains, strains to serious fractures and spinal cord damage. The purpose of this page is to provide some information to you, the recreational surfer of Maroubra, Bronte or elsewhere in our Eastern Suburbs region about some of the more common strains and sprains that occur during surfing. And to provide some simple advice that aims to minimise your chance of getting injured or suffering from symptoms such as pain, stiffness or tightness.

Shoulder Problems

Paddling your board in the surf is a relatively low intensity load on the shoulder, but it is a repetitive movement performed with the shoulder internally rotated. As with swimming, this repetitive action can place an accumulative stress on the structures within your sub-acromial space- the supraspinatus tendon and the sub-acromial bursa, leading to tendinopathy (formerly known as tendinitis), a rotator cuff tear or bursitis.

The treatment for these conditions involves activity modification, joint mobilisation, massage and occasionally a referral out for a cortisone injection. Once the shoulder is, let’s say “calmer”, the concentration of inflammatory mediators in and around the shoulder generally, and sub-acromial space specifically, is likely to reduce and symptoms should track towards resolution. As movement becomes easier and less symptomatic, we can shift attention towards graded strengthening and conditioning of the rotator cuff tendons and surrounding muscles.

In more intractable cases, a surgeon may choose to carry out a “subacromial decompression”. In this procedure, some of the bursa is removed surgically. A surgeon may also perform an “acromioplasty” whereby extra space is created for the supraspinatus tendon by removing a small section from the acromion process.

The need for surgery, in my experience is low. Most cases of sub-acromial bursitis or tendinopathy respond well to non-surgical interventions including activity modification, mobilisation and stretching of the shoulder, massage and a graded strengthening program. If your having shoulder problems that are limiting your ability to surf, give us a call us on 9665 9667. We will get you back into action.

Neck and Shoulder Blade Problems

Tightness in the neck, upper back and shoulder blade region can occur among surfers because of the amount of time spent with the neck craned while paddling. Such tightness can progress to pain if ignored. Typically, these symptoms don’t reflect serious damage to structures within the neck or back, but they should serve as a kind of warning that the neck is being subjected to an accumulative stress.

This type of mechanical stress can lead to wear and tear forces on the joints within the vertebrae of the neck and upper back. If you are a keen surfer who spends lots of time in the water, it would beneficial sit up on your board frequently, and stretch the back of your neck by tipping your head down and tucking your chin in for 5-10 seconds or so. Stretching your neck from side to side while sitting on your board will also help to give the joints in your neck a bit of a grease and oil change, which should make it more comfortable when paddling.

If you’re dealing with a nagging tightness or pain in the neck or back that you can’t seem to shake off with some basic stretches, give us a call on 9665 9667. We can discuss your case on the phone and decide if it is worth dropping by for a Physio consultation.

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