While you are young this may not seem an issue, however after many years of surfing nerve entrapment or compression can become a real “pain in the neck”.
Nerve compression in the cervical region (neck) can result from paddling over many years or even from a long day of surfing with your neck extended on your board. Some of the symptoms can include pins and needles in your triceps, arms, hands, and a feeling of muscle weakness. Often you may leave the surf with a pounding headache on the left or right side of your head.
Between each of the vertebrae are our discs. In total there are seven vertebrae in our necks or what we term our cervical part of our spine. Each vertebra has a bony prominence called the spinous process which is situated behind the spinal cord protecting our nerve tissue. Our discs act like cushions between each vertebra which assist with impact on the spinal column that occurs with movement or hyperextension when we paddle. Each of these discs is made of a soft nucleus pulposus which is a jelly-like substance in the middle of the spinal disc.
This area can rupture, bulge or herniate through the surrounding outer ring of the annulus fibrosus and affect the nerve tissue and injure our ligaments, which are composed of fibrous tissue that hold the vertebrae together and surround our cervical discs.
The discs and the joints are stacked on top of each other. Our facet joints are then subject to wear and tear over time and become degenerative and we see dramatic changes occur.
This degeneration of the cervical discs is often called cervical spondylosis and can be seen clearly in a MRI scan. This then leads into osteoarthritis.
The nerve roots that come out of the area in the neck can be affected by sudden stretching, hyperextension or compression. The pain and spasm in the muscles of the neck tend to occur as a result of this along with numbness and severe headaches that can last for days. It is then difficult to treat the nerve pain as drugs for this type of pain are normally of little use. Pain can also radiate to the shoulder as well. Treatment includes ice, rest, heat treatment, painkillers, muscle relaxants and physiotherapy. In most cases symptoms will settle within a few weeks, but can be also be around for a long time.
Positioning yourself on your board with a less hyper extended neck will eliminate this problem. While it is a bit difficult to master, the surfer needs to be aware and keep his/her neck to the side and changing the position from left to right when paddling. Be conscious of the neck been held up and facing forward for long periods of time. Strengthening the area will also assist. With severe prolonged pain and severe impairment of function a localised injection by your doctor to the facet joint area may be recommended. Surgery is rarely performed and the exact nature of the procedure depends on the overall condition of your spine condition your age and the severity of the problem However surgeons do not like to tackle this area.
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