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Beat the Heat–and Back Pain–While Participating in Water Sports

surfing

Summertime is here, and a lot of us participate in water sports to beat the heat. Unfortunately, these activities can also leave you with back and neck pain if you aren’t careful.

Remember these tips when you’re spending your summer days on the water.

Swimming and Diving

Swimming can actually be a great, gentle form of exercise if you have back pain. However, improper form while swimming and diving can leave you with back or neck injuries. Keep these tips in mind to avoid back pain after a day at the pool.

  1. Use proper form for front strokes. Good form is important for all swimming strokes, but especially when doing front strokes. Front strokes can hyperextend the lower back and strain the neck. When doing a front stroke like the crawl or breaststroke, make sure to keep your body level, holding your lower abdominal muscles up and in and keeping your neck straight.
  2. Take breaths the right way. Jerking your head up to take a breath will increase your risk of neck pain and injury. Instead, roll your body to the side and keep your chin tucked in when you need to take a breath.
  3. Do not dive in shallow water. Diving into shallow water increases your risk of serious head and neck injuries. If you don’t know how deep the water is, play it safe and don’t dive.

Surfing

Surfing maneuvers can put quite a bit of strain on the neck and back. These tips will help you avoid back pain and injuries.

  1. Warm up before getting in the water. If you are an avid surfer, you might not think of it as a physical activity that you need to prepare for. However, taking just a few minutes to warm up can reduce your chance of injuries and may even help you surf better. Stretching is a key part of any warmup; stretch all the major muscles, including your back.
  2. Core strength is key. Not only is core strength important for spine support, it is also a key component in keeping your balance while surfing. If you surf regularly, you should focus on core strength. Even if you only surf for fun, surfing is as physical as any other sport. If you don’t want to end up with injuries to your back, neck, and other parts of your body, you need to train just as you would with any other sport.
  3. If your back or neck is hurting, give it a rest. Don’t continue to surf if your back or neck is already aching. That’s your body’s way of telling you that you’ve done a little too much. Trying to “tough out” the pain could only make it worse. Chronic neck or back pain could indicate an overuse injury. If this is the case, you’ll need to give surfing a rest until you heal.

Water Skiing and Wakeboarding

Water skiing and wakeboarding are high-speed, fast-paced sports that requires a lot of leg and core strength. If you don’t take the right precautions, injuries can happen.

  1. Learn the correct techniques. When you’re being pulled by a boat at high speed, you want to know what you’re doing. If you’re new to water skiing or wakeboarding, learn the correct techniques from someone who has experience.
  2. Wear a safety helmet. This is especially important for wakeboarders, who are more likely to sustain a head injury like a concussion.
  3. Don’t forget to stretch! Stretching is very important with any physical activity, and water skiing and wakeboarding are not exceptions! Tight hamstrings and hip flexors can put a lot of strain on your lower back when you go water skiing or wakeboarding. Make sure to stretch these areas before you get behind the boat.

Even with the best preparations, injuries can happen. If you feel back or neck pain while you are in the water, take a break. It’s better to take a few days of rest for minor back pain than spend your whole summer stuck on dry land with a major injury.