SURF TIP: Understanding Surfer's Aches & Pains

Surfing is one of the healthiest sports in the world, but there are also
hidden, often slow, and insidious dangers. Surfing, combined with ADL (Activities of Daily Living, things like sitting at a computer, driving, and sleeping) causes muscles in your body to become shortened and weakened due to imbalances from overuse and lack of flexibility. The idea is that if you contract a muscle, it shortens.
Continued use of that muscle will cause the body to react by setting that muscle into a shortened position. Since muscles attach to your
bones, the shortened muscles pull your joints slightly out of alignment. This puts stress on the joints and signals your nervous system
to further shorten and tighten your muscles to protect the joints that are under stress. In time, these unnatural positions become the main
reasons why our bodies breakdown and become injured. We are preloading our joints before we even use them. Stiffness and arthritis set in and all you're left with are the memories of the good old days.

As the first installment of a two-part series, this month we're looking at exactly what kind of problems the average, everyday surfer may experience. If any of these injuries sound familiar, stay tuned because next month we're telling you how to solve them. If you have any questions you want answered about your surf-related injuries, send them to and we'll let the good doctor take a crack at it.


A. Imbalances caused by
overuse and lack of flexibility,
combined with being right or
left-handed result in postural
stress, pulling the shoulders,
neck, and head forward and
out of alignment.

B. Surfing creates tight hip
flexors. The front foot hip
rotates forward, pulling the
spine, hips, knees, and
ankles out of alignment.

C. The buttocks contract
and shorten, rotating the hip,
so your back foot turns out.
When muscles are overused
and under stretched, the
joints of the spine, hips,
knees, and ankles become
prone to injury.


A. Tension created by imbalances
in the hip cause core
instability; your surfing ability
decreases, making surfing
less enjoyable.

B. Increased muscle-shortening
keeps the right shoulder
under stress and out of
alignment, decreasing its
flexibility, coordination, and

C. Due to resistance in only
one direction when pulling
the arms through the water,
the muscles responsible for
pulling become overused
and loose their flexibility.

D. Muscle imbalances from
being right-handed causes
the right hip to draw upward
as the right shoulder is pulled
down, creating ongoing
stress that over time affects
all of the joints in the body.


A. The neck, chest, and the
internal rotator muscles of
the shoulders all shorten and
limit normal range of motion
in response to routine activities.

B. The natural curves that
support the spine and proper
posture are altered and
increased stress and muscle
imbalance is created.

C. Not only are the muscles
and joints in the neck and
shoulders under extra stress
and working harder, but the
lower back muscles are also
working harder to hold up
the torso, fatiguing the muscles
that protect the lower