Surfer's spine a risk for casual thrill-seekers

It is that time of year again, where the office-bound dust off their surfboards and lather up their pale bodies in anticipation of catching a few summer waves.

But one Wollongong chiropractor is warning overzealous "weekend warriors" to take care when they hit the beach - or risk suffering a nasty case of surfer's spine.

"What we call 'surfer's spine' is the pain people get with the strain in their neck and back from having to stay arched while they're paddling," Dr Travis Powell warned surfers.

"We tend to associate it with the weekend warriors - people who do too much when they're generally sedentary the rest of the time.

"People in their 30s and 40s are generally the worst because they're not surfing every day like they were when they were kids, but they still think they can do everything just like they used to."

Sedentary people who launch into the surf without preparation will likely suffer neck and back strain from the repetitive paddling, duck diving and twisting of the body associated with surfing, the chiropractor said.

In more serious cases, people could suffer long-term injuries and acute pain.

Dr Powell said occasional surfers should be realistic about their limitations and prepare their bodies before entering the surf by warming up the body, and building core and upper body strength in the long term.

"It's important to prepare the body because people may not realise they are an injury just waiting to happen," he said.

"Latent problems often aren't noticed until we start being active."

Tips to prevent back injuries

The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (NSW) recommends the following to avoid ‘‘surfer’s spine’’ and other injuries:

■ Warm-up before engaging in an activity, to help reduce the risk of injury.

■ Stretch after exercise to improve flexibility and mobility of the joints.

■ Desk jobs often result in a forward slump, due to the nature of the work. Perform exercises on a Swiss ball to correct spinal posture and reduce the likelihood of injury.

■ Seek treatment for pain, rather than trying to push through an injury.


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