How to prevent low back and neck pain while paddling?


While you´re lying on your surfboard paddling,  the muscles in the back of your body are actively contracting. If all those muscles work together to extend (lift) your upper body off the board, this can be called "global extension", the effort of lifting the upper body will then be shared by the back, glutes and legs. 

Often the global extension chain is broken, meaning that a part of the back of the body is in inactive, such as the legs. The low back will typically receive more stress than needed as you hyper extend through the low back causing extra pressure in the joints and to the back of the intervertebral discs in that region. The low back muscles will work harder, causing muscular strain or contractures. 

As for the neck, as you lift your head to look forward, you may be hyper extending in the cervical spine, causing extra compression in the joints of C5 - C7 and T1. 

Here are some tips to help keep some of the pressure off of the low back and neck while paddling:

-» Activate your core, especially the region below your navel, to give a slight pull to your pubic bone, towards your navel. Thereby creating a little more space in between the vertebras of the low back.

-» along with the core muscles, activate the back your legs, pointing your feet and pushing your hips into the board, from there the thoracic extension will come easier and the load will be distributed throughout the whole body, including the legs.

-» when you lift your head looking forward, try to lift up as much as possible through the chest, lifting and opening through the chest and not cranking the neck too much.

-» keep your chin very lightly tucked in towards your chest to minimize the extension in the neck, lengthening through the back of your neck.

-» There are many beneficial stretches and exercises you can do to increase mobility and core strength, in example during a Yoga or Pilates class.

-» Get a massage after surfing to remove some of the stress on your back and neck and feel improved muscular balance as you look forward to your next surfing session!