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A Unique Approach for 'Surfers' Neck'

By Erin Elster, DC

Lahaina News

March 26, 2015

For many surfers, surfing is not just a sport; it's a way of life. Most surfers will report experiencing rejuvenation of the mind, body and spirit with just a single surf session. While there are numerous benefits from the sport, surfers, like all other athletes, are susceptible to injury through trauma and overuse.

One of the most common complaints from surfers is neck pain. The surfer may report chronic pain in the back of the head and neck, difficulty turning the head from side-to-side, nerve pain and/or numbness and tingling down the arms, headaches, and jaw pain. Many of these symptoms are so frequently reported by surfers that they are loosely referred to as "surfers' neck."

A unique approach for chronic "surfers' neck," known as upper cervical (neck) care, is a chiropractic treatment that focuses upon the alignment of the top two vertebrae in the neck, directly underneath the head. These top vertebrae are chiefly responsible for the rotation and flexibility of the head and neck and are susceptible to injury through trauma and overuse.

There are several common mechanisms of upper cervical injury while surfing. A surfer may sustain a blow to the head against a surfboard, reef or ocean floor; the surfer may suffer a whiplash injury during a wipeout where the neck is jerked back and forth or side-to-side beyond its normal limits; and while paddling, the surfer's neck is held in extension for long periods of time. Any of the above may cause ligaments supporting the head and neck to be sprained (stretched), which forces the upper vertebrae out of their normal biomechanical position and may lead to symptoms.

Upper cervical chiropractic care utilizes two diagnostic tests - thermal imaging and digital x-rays - to accurately assess a cervical injury. Each patient's injured neck is corrected by administering a precise adjustment by hand on a specially designed knee chest table. Many surfers notice improvement in pain, neurological and other symptoms with just a few treatments.

Upper cervical care provides a unique approach for the treatment of trauma-induced cervical injuries. The goal of treatment is to return surfers to their sport and lifestyle as quickly as possible.

With over 20 years of experience as a specialist in the upper cervical spine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., has been working with surfers for the past two years on Maui. For more information on upper cervical care and trauma-induced cervical injuries, please contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or www.erinelster.com.