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Neck pain from surfing?

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

Surfers typically spend about half the time paddling. So neck pain is very common after a surf session.


Prolonged extension of the cervical facet joints in a closed packed position (whilst paddling) increases the demands on the structures of the upper spine and associated soft tissues. Consequently the muscles in the back of the neck, upper back, and lower back are in constant contraction, causing tension and discomfort.


To simplify things when you bend forward you place load on the discs, when you arch back you put load on the facet joints. If you do anything that repetitively puts you in a bent over (like a desk job for example) or arched (like paddling) position it can increased your susceptibility of irritating the discs and joints in the back and neck.


If you spend most of your day sitting on the desk you will be loading your neck in a flexed position, then paddling will cause more discomfort as the joints are already irritated.


One of the most common cause of neck pain may be attributed to inadequate extension in the thoracic. If your middle of the back is stiff, you are going to do a lot of arching/pivoting through the lower back and neck to paddle. This can overload the joints and keep flaring up that irritable neck/back.


So here are some thoracic mobility exercises for you!

  • Thoracic extension/core activation


  • Thoracic extension/side flexion


  • Thoracic rotation


For most people with neck pain these exercises might help. however, for some people it may not provide a good amount of relief. So make sure you find the root cause of your symptoms and book an assessment.

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