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Told to give up surfing!!!!!

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  • Told to give up surfing!!!!!

    I was told by a neurosurgeon today that I had to consider giving up surfing because of the condition my neck is in. He said that it is inevitable that I will end up getting a neck fusion in the future but it will all depend on how well I look after my neck now as to how long that it will be before I need the operation.
    I'm 45 and he says I have the neck of an 80 year old
    As fellow passionate surfers you can imagine how I'm feeling about that right now as my whole life revolves around catching waves!

    When in the paddling position and my head is looking up I get pins and needles down my arm when it’s bad and in the hand when it not so bad

    So my question is has anyone else been in this situation and just kept surfing?
    What did you do to manage it?

    Thanks !

    Last edited by Goanna; 09-26-2013, 12:37 AM.

  • #2
    I would get a second opinion as doctors don't always get it right. I also read an article about surfers neck and it's becoming more common. I would look at some neck streaching yoga poses retrain the necks posture to counteract the RSI. I would not stop surfing. You could also try paddle while keeping your head down and only look up at the last seconds. Anything is worth a go. Healing vibes mate.


    • #3
      there's gotta be a way around this mate...

      definitely get a second and even third opinion, and preferably with a surgeon who is active in sport themselves..they tend to look for ways to keep you in your passion/addiction... AFTER checking with said sporting doc as to what they want you to avoid, work in with a good sports physio who can communicate with the doc to strengthen whats weak, lengthen whats tight and get you a strong neutral posture..(as much as possible while surfing)..

      i lay very flat and stare at the deck with my chin slightly tucked ... i roll my eyeballs up to peer through my eyebrows as required... (essentially, i swim with a board under me)... i try and surf well organised line ups so i know where and when it will break so i don't have to lift my head up AND twist it to look behind me.. this leads to lots of lobster dives before take off (as you have witnessed) .. but it stops me using all those joints and hinges constantly... i do a LOT of paddling... on flat days i paddle for a few kms.. if your familiar with the plank exercise, i try and "plank paddle" .. also, while a heavy rocker will paddle a bit slower, it will allow you to stay flat right into the drop.. and allow suckier drops without you needing to arch back to avoid nosediving...

      decrepit dave


      • #4
        by chance, heres a pic my daughter took yesterday on lake pacific... just returning from a paddle session into the distance... this is me as arched as i normally get.. just rolling eyeballs up to see where the kids were and when to fall off the board with exhaustion... i'm mainly arched evenly through my back and only slight movement at the neck....the rest of the paddle had my body fairly flat and aligned with intermittent glances up for navigation

        cant work out how to a get full size pic on here

        p.s. the vanguard is good for this.. as you can see, the nose is underwater... but it performs the same whether its under or over... no drag/ploughing
        Last edited by core personal training; 09-26-2013, 04:23 AM.


        • #5
          Thanks guys some good advice. I can't get in anywhere for a second opinion until at least March next year (so far anyway - I'll keep ringing around) but I guess there is nothing stopping me work with a Physio straight away. I have CT and from Monday an MRI scans for them to look at. The issues are bulging disk, calcification of the bone, narrowing of the spinal column and arthritic blaa, blaa, blaa.
          I'll see how it goes!
          any other experiences appreciated.


          • #6
            Doctors will always air on the side of caution, you have to find one that understands Surfing and what it involves.

            All Doctors hear 'Surfing' and think that sounds dangerous, better cut that out.
            Last edited by reserves; 09-26-2013, 05:13 AM.


            • #7
              Hi Goanna,
              Sorry to hear about your situation. I have had a similar situation two years ago being told that I had to have a lower back fusion.This could turn into a bit of a novel so il try to keep it as short as possible.

              A couple of years ago I was experiencing increasing back pain at work and was sent for an Xray at the age of 26. Turns out I had a fractured vertebrae and the vertebrae had also slipped forward. This caused severe pain with heavy lifting which was a major problem being a carpenter. The pain was getting to a point that I needed help getting in and out of the car. I was sent to a spine surgeon and he was trying to book me in for a spinal fusion within 5 minutes of speaking to him. Speaking with the surgeon was very depressing thinking that I would no longer be able to surf or live an active life...... So I know how your feeling.

              I had heard that spine surgery is serious, serious shit and quite risky and dangerous. That it should only be used as a last resort. I went and got many opinions from other surgeons, doctors, and physio's. It turned out that the rest of the docs all agreed that the surgery wasn't needed and as long as I gave up heavy lifting (carpentry) my back pain would be bearable.... Good news! Also they agreed that the fitter, stronger, and more flexible I was the less pain I would be in. As it turns out the docs couldn't believe how flexible I was compared to other people with the same condition due to my surfing background. They decided that it was VERY important that I didn't stop surfing, and that it was the best exercise that I could do for my back.

              Now obviously every case or injury is different. The point that Im making Is you should definitely get several opinions, and hopefully you have a bit of luck and also get some good news. In my case if I don't keep active I go downhill fast.
              Good luck with it all and hopefully you can keep shredding! Stoop...


              • #8
                don't know the specifics of your situation, but you should look into artificial disk replacement. looks promising and should help retain the range of motion in your neck


                • #9
                  stoop a loops story is all too common goanna... i came across lots of people who had over eager surgeons... (remember, they need to pay the lease on the BMW and golf fees somehow..!!).. get those other opinions.. include gp's take on it too.. and good sports physio's usually know of the better surgeons and can get a dialouge with them for dealing with/minimizing it.. DONT embark on a get fit campaign without guidance from the pro's, but its more than likely it will have a positive impact on this if done correctly...

                  remember my back was supposed to be done 20 years ago and i was supposed to take up bowls.....i still have bouts of laying in bed and crawling to the dunny, but i also have a lot surfs like i'm still 20 and ready to take on the tour..!! (of course thats the firewires, not my ability..!!)

                  don't worry mate... no SUP for you just yet..!!


                  • #10
                    I got a similar diagnosis about 10 years ago, almost word for word.

                    I kept surfing.


                    • Goanna
                      Goanna commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Thanks Hooked - do you still have the symptoms though?

                  • #11
                    I still experience occasional flare ups with the neck-related issues but itís manageable. Most days the neck is the least of my problems; Iíve also shattered a knee and have a herniated L4-L5. My 40ís were tough, so far the 50ís have been better. Hang in there, it may take some time but if I can get through it, Iím sure you can too. Most doctors donít know how stubborn surfers can be.

                    The cause of my neck issues was not surfing-related but at times it was aggravated by paddling, especially during big days and long sessions. When I turned 40, I lost a full year of activity with the knee and thatís when the neck got so bad that I finally went to see the doctor. My problem was a constant, searing pain down my right arm into my hand.

                    My doctor said the same thing to me - 42 year old with a 80 year old spine. My diagnosis was a large disc protrusion at C5-6 with right neural foraminal stenosis and right anterior cord impingement. This was the primary cause of the arm pain but I also had a bulging disk with osteophytes at C6-7 that was also causing a narrowing of the spinal canal.

                    His suggestion was a spinal fusion. Not a question of if, just when. They had a list of things that I wouldnít be able to do after the fusion. Not sure if surfing was on there but skydiving was. Iíve never done that and had no plans to do so but I didnít like being told that I couldnít. I chose plan B which was a needle to the neck with some steroids to try to bring down the inflammation. It took months to get the pain to fade away. I figured I was only 42 and would try to put surgery off as long as possible.

                    Most important thing was that I got in better shape. (and got a good memory foam pillow)

                    Now my lower back is my weak link. I know I need to stay in shape. If I go a couple days without being active, I feel old, stiff and brittle.

                    Some of these other posts have great suggestions. One that I want to add is to figure out what causes the pain to get worse and stop doing it (or adapt your technique). I canít lift heavy weights but I can do more chin ups than I could when I was 20. I paddle with my head down too. Iím sure this is why I like a little extra volume in my boards now.

                    Iím jealous of most of you guys. I only get to surf a couple times a month but I feel better at it now than I did a decade ago. Probably the Potatonator.


                    • #12
                      Try stand up paddling. Will stop the bending up of your neck and allow you to surf once fused.


                      • #13
                        Thanks for all the replies guys; it looks like Iím not alone here with some of you doing it even tougher than me! I had an MRI scan last night and now waiting for the Neurosurgeon to reply. The thing is if I wasnít diligent this time I would still be surfing as much as possible like usual and just putting up with the aggravation.
                        Iím pretty sure Iíll continue surfing after teaming up with a good sports Physio and shorter sessions Ė I average 3 hour surfs all the time so Iím thinking more 1 hour hit and run missions will be better for my neck.
                        Hopefully the Doc has some good news!


                        • #14
                          fingers crossed for ya mate... i rarely last more than an hour and a half before stiffly walking back to the car... even then its not a "hit and run mission"... i paddle as slowly and carefully as i can get away with and catch waves selectively.. if i'm in a sweep etc, i only aim for three heat winners..!!


                          • #15
                            oh yeah, thought of you the other day, you always wear your hat don't you.??...i went for a quick 15 min surf in my hat instead of creaming up... neck is now playing up.. the hat tends to make me bend my neck right up for vision under the visor... thought it was a factor previously.. this time i took note of how much i was craning my neck to lift visor out of line of site... from now on, even if going in for 15 mins in 1ft waves just to get wet, no more hat..


                            • Slowman
                              Slowman commented
                              Editing a comment
                              just wear a scull cap like the His Holiness :D or a lifesavers cap, maybe cut the visor down/off?