woman prone paddling in the ocean on a surfboard

Back Pain in Surfers: Seek Treatment Before It Gets Serious

Surfing requires a level of fitness and skill to do well. It requires the strength to paddle, dexterity to pop up, and balance to stay up. All of these actions require a healthy and flexible spine. If you don't take steps to maintain a healthy back, you won’t enjoy surfing for as long as you’d like. 

“Being a surfer means that you are at the mercy of thousands of pounds of water at any moment. It also means that the lower back takes a beating from the unnatural positions that you must take.

“I used to just deal with the pain because I had no other solution, but with adjustments, I can be ready to go for another session at a moment's notice.” —Jeffrey R., Golden Chiro patient

Taking time away from surfing because of low back pain can be frustrating. It’s hard to watch a good set roll in and miss out on the fun. But if you experience low back pain, you must get treatment as soon as you notice it’s an issue. Left untreated, surfers can get chronic low back pain, and eventually experience arthritic degeneration.


What causes low back pain in surfers?

Low back pain from surfing comes from over-arching your lumbar spine when you paddle. This action causes pressure and compaction of your lumbar facet joints. If you have excessive stiffness in your upper back, your lower back arches even further to compensate.

Your facet joints are located on both sides of a vertebra—they are where the vertebrae connect to one another. They are richly innervated with nervous tissue and can become a source of pain when irritated or compacted.


What are the symptoms of back pain from surfing?

There are three main signs that your back pain is caused by surfing:

  • Dull, aching low back
  • Stiff upper back
  • Weak core

How do you diagnose that back pain is from surfing?

We do a few tests to determine if your pain is from over-arching when you paddle:

  • We'll assess the range of motion in your upper and lower back, especially extension.
  • We'll perform Kemp’s orthopedic test and/or the prone press-up orthopedic test. These tests help determine whether your low back pain stems from your facet joints or an irritated lumbar spine.

How does chiropractic treat back pain from surfing?

If we diagnose that your low back pain is surfing-related, we'll likely use a combination of the following treatments:

Chiropractic adjustments to help:

  • mobilize the facet joints
  • decrease stiffness and inflexibility of the upper back

Soft tissue therapies to decrease tension in the surrounding musculature, like:


How long will it take to stop surfing-related low back pain?

The amount of time needed to get back to 100% depends on your physical condition and history of injury/activity.


If you have experienced a traumatic wipe-out, we may recommend seeing us 2 times a week for 2 weeks, then once a week for 4 weeks.

If you're experiencing generalized stiffness or achy-ness, we may recommend coming in once a week for 6 weeks. We typically see resolution of symptoms long before that, however.


What can I do at home to prevent and ease surfing-related low back pain?

Strengthen your core.

Core strengthening will help to stabilize and protect your low back. It is especially important to engage the core during the “pop-up” phase.


Ease your aches and pains.

CBD topicals and Epsom salts can provide relief for your tight, achy muscles.


Think your back pain is from surfing?

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. To be sure, get diagnosed by a professional. Book your appointment with us so our chiropractors can determine if your pain is surfing-related, or has another cause. Once we figure out the source of your pain, we can develop the right treatment plan for you.


Contact Information

 9053 Soquel Dr A
Aptos, CA 95003


(831) 661-5577
 (831) 851-3502


Opening Hours

Monday Closed

Tuesday 10:00 AM - 06:00 PM

Wednesday 10:00 AM - 06:00 PM

Thursday 10:00 AM - 06:00 PM

Friday 09:00 PM - 04:00 PM

Saturday 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM

Sunday Closed

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