It can be quite the contest scoring un-crowded waves in Byron Bay. Luckily there are still long stretches of open beach and the occasional surf setting requiring just enough physical effort and time to avert most punters.
While recently enjoying 3-foot rights at one of these anonymous locations my friend ‘Tim’ complained of tightness between his shoulder blades in the thoracic region. Investigations on Tim on the Surfbodysoul treatment table a few hours later revealed an inability to twist the torso from side to side, accompanied by pain. Further investigations displayed stiffness in the muscles, ribs and joints of the thoracic region, remembering joints in this sense is where one vertebra of the spine connects and moves on top of another.
I’m sure many of you can relate to Tim’s predicament at some stage in your surfing life. For many of you it might still occur sporadically, for others periodically or ‘all the bloody time’ in some cases. When we think about this type of pain logically and from a Physiotherapy (or Osteopathic, Chiropractic, biomechanists) point of view it makes perfect sense why this occurs. To break it down simply when paddling specific muscles on the back of your spine are statically and dynamically contracting to keep your middle spine arched so you can look ahead as you propel yourself. When this continues for extended periods (such as a point break with sweep) these muscles can become tight, in the process adding pressure to the joints and ribs of your spine, particularly those between your shoulder blades in the thoracic region. This pressure can lead to the joints and ribs compressing or becoming locked in a position that is not normal, in the process creating pain and limiting movement
Apart from manual treatment one way of minimizing the risk of this occurring is by keeping the muscles of the thoracic region stretched regularly, in the process keeping the ribs and joints of your spine equally free. Every Surfbodysoul program contains numerous exercise varieties from the Yoga, Pilates and Physiotherapy realm to achieve just this. Now lets explore one of these exercises in detail, the ‘Spinal Twist Long Sitting’:
Spinal Twist Long Sitting
Benefits: Increases range of movement/flexibility in the thoracic spine (middle spine), ribs and muscles in this region (rhomboids/upper back muscles). Having movement in this region is critical for surfers as this area tightens easily due to repeated paddling. This region also needs to be flexible to rotate the middle part of the spine to complete top to bottom turns and advanced aerial manoeuvres. By being flexible in the thoracic spine you have less pressure going through your neck during surfing and in the completion of activities of daily living.
1. Place a blanket or pillow under your buttock and straighten both legs in front (Long sitting). If you cannot comfortably maintain a straight spine fold your blanket over a second time or place a second pillow underneath your buttock.
2. Bend your right knee towards your chest keeping the heel in line with the hipbone. Place your right hand behind you in line with and as close to the spine as you can comfortably manage.
3. Inhale lengthen/straighten the left arm above your head.
4. Exhale place the left elbow to the outside of the right knee, twist to the right and look over the right shoulder.
5. With each inhalation lengthen the spine taking the crown of the head towards the ceiling.
6. With each exhalation rotate/twist your torso further to the right (without forcing) initiating this movement from your core muscles.
7. Hold 6-10 breaths, repeat other side.
Ryan Huxley is the co-founder and program creator at Surfbodysoul, a website that provides safe, effective, holistic, scientific e-book exercise programs catering for surfers of all age, level and experience. Ryan is a qualified Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist, Advanced Yoga and Pilates instructor. His list of pro surfing clients includes Fergal Smith, Chippa Wilson, Anthony Walsh, Paige Hareb, Emi Cataldi & Rusty Miller.