Chiropractic Care for Surfing Injuries?

January 29th, 2011

Chiropractic Care for Surfing Injuries? 

A great article we came across on www.ijustsurf.com by Lynn Kerew

If you’ve done any surfing, then I’m sure you’ve been beaten up by the ocean once or twice. Surfers are notorious for trying to “work through” their injuries and not seek medical attention. They would much rather continue to surf in pain than be told that they need step away from the beach for a while.

Sprains and strains of the shoulder, neck, back and hip are the most common injury for surfers. This type of injury can be prevented or limited in scope if they warm up and cool down properly. If you have read any of my other posts, this will sound like a broken record, but it is amazing what a difference with just a short 5 minute warm up of stretching the muscles. For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on the upper body, with another article covering the bottom half to follow.

It is imperative that we define these injuries and how they should be treated. Most athletes will take Ibuprofen to help relieve some of the pain from a sprain or strain. Contrary to this popular belief, this could actually be counterproductive. Some pain relievers like Advil, Motrin & Ibuprofen could increase scar tissue formation.

Strains are defined as partial or complete tears in a muscle and have three levels.

  • A Grade 1 strain is associated with small tears within the muscle fibers. Muscle strength stays normal and healing typically takes 10-21 days.
  • In Grade 2 muscle strain, the muscle fibers are partially torn. The athlete will experience reduced strength and up to four weeks of physical therapy is required.
  • A complete muscle rupture occurs in a Grade 3 strain. Serious medical care and possibly an MRI are needed to fully evaluate the injury. You can expect to see swelling in Grades 2-3 strains.

Most surfing injuries fall under the Grade 1 category. The surfer will generally not feel pain until one to two hours after surfing or training. A break from surfing is required because a “chronic” development can lead to a build up of scar tissue and the possibility of a future rupture.

Sprains are injuries to a ligament, which are tough fibrous tissues that hold bones together across a joint. This injury can create pain or instability in the injured joint and is also listed in three levels. With Grade 1 sprains there is pain and swelling, but no instability. Like the strains, this injury is associated with small tears in the ligament.

Time, rest, ice, compression wraps and elevation are required for healing. There are partial ruptures in Grade 2 sprains that could cause some instability within the joint. Physical therapy may be required as well as prolonged rest, icing, compression and elevation. Grade 3 sprains may actually feel less painful than grade 2s, but there is a complete rupture of the ligament and much more swelling. A brace and possibly a surgical procedure are necessary for full healing.

The majority of surfing sprains are considered Grade 1, but could progress up the spectrum if not taken care of. Chiropractic care is used often to treat surfing injuries. It is used specifically to regain the range of motion in the joint.

Neck : Chronic neck injuries typically fall under the muscle strain category. The neck muscles will spasm creating hard, tight muscles that are very tender. Pain will occur when the head is moved to either side or up and down. It is imperative to determine if the pain is emanating from the spinal column or within the muscles that surround it. Many surfers suffer this type of injury from all of the time paddling with their necks hyper-extended. Chiropractic adjustments can help relieve the tension in this area and restore the range of motion.

Shoulder : The shoulder is a popular target for surfing injuries. Because surfers are “overhead athletes,” they are susceptible to shoulder instability and injuries known as “rotator cuff strain” and “multidirectional instability”. The rotator cuff complex is what gives the shoulder stability and also connects the shoulder blades to the arms and collarbones. It is also the most vulnerable area for injury on a surfer.

Surfers my also end up with a problem with their posture where their shoulders are rounded and have a forward head posture called “upper-crossed syndrome.” This can also be treated by a Doctor of Chiropractic where the patient assumes a supine position (laying on their back) on a table. A rolled towel or a foam pad is placed under the midline of the back. The chiropractor will gently push the shoulders toward the table, stretching the chest muscles.

If you are dying to get back on your board, but are dealing with pain like what has been described here, a chiropractor can get you back out there before you know it. Why suffer when you get back out there pain free?

[by Lynn Kerew]