Surf Related Injuries

Welcome to the only Acupuncture Clinic in Santa Cruz, California Specializing in Surf Related Injuries


Surfing is viewed by many as not just a sport but as a way of life. By providing a meditative yet invigorating experience, it serves as stress alleviation to many.  Not only does surfing greatly benefit the human spirit but also revitalizes and rejuvenates the physical body. While the benefits of surfing may be great, it is still considered to be a dangerous and extreme sport and the consequences of an injury may greatly affect the surfer. Some injuries require an immediate trip to the emergency room, while others may be resolved with regular treatment and care. Our goal is to help you recover from injury and prevent repetitive injuries which may lead to the need for surgery.

Injuries range from progressive (pain occurs over time) to acute and from mild to 383516_10151729705645649_436495968_nsevere. An acute injury is when the pain is felt immediately. Progressive injuries are often caused by strain, overuse, and/or improper structure. Acute injuries may be due to a number of different causes including wipeouts, collisions with humans or inanimate objects, or lack of strength, flexibility, and stability while making a crucial maneuver.

Our clinic offers a full range of treatment modalities and lifestyle advice that will send you well on your way back to the waves. So whether you are hanging ten at pleasure point, fighting the crowds at Steamer Lane, contending with great white sharks at Waddell Creek, or competing in the ASP World Tour at the Cold Water Classic event in Santa Cruz, California, we can help. Regardless of your skills we have answers and we have what you need to maintain optimal physical condition for surfing.


People’s Integrative Medicine offers a unique and integrative approach to treatment including community acupuncture, private acupuncture, sports-injury massage, structural manipulation/ chiropractic, and other modalities to rehabilitate common injuries. We also offer post-surgical treatment and care to facilitate speedy recovery. We specialize in the treatment of injuries involving the spine, shoulder, elbow, knee, ankle, etc.

167410_10151399531450649_1642118716_nWhat to expect from an acupuncture treatment

We will perform a full body health evaluation in the first acupuncture treatment. This may include orthopedic testing to isolate the injured area, questions about diet, digestive health, sleep, energy, and other lifestyle components. Recommendations will be given to optimize and speed up recovery time. After each treatment you may experience decreased pain and discomfort, increased mobility and range of motion, increased strength in the affected area, increased energy levels, and more relaxation.

Most injuries require a course of treatment. Often you will feel relief of pain or discomfort after one treatment but sometimes it may take several treatments before you notice a marked difference. Treatment length depends greatly on the severity of the injury and your individual physical response to the treatment modality. In mild cases, it may take just a few treatments to obtain full recovery. Treatment courses often range from 3 to 8 weeks for the desired result.


Other Services

Ia Walton is the only licensed McTimoney practitioner in the US, and we just so happen to have her healing in our humble Capitola clinic!  The McTimoney method of structural re-allignment is the gold standard in England, where Ia received her extensive training.  With each session, Ia addesses each and every joint in the whole body, from scalp to toes.

Susannah Weiler is not only a licensed acupuncturist, but a rock-star massage therapist as well. For chronic muscular pains, Susannah is the woman to see.  Her treatments incorporate both massage and acupuncture, and are key in keeping your body happy while waiting to catch the next wave.

We also offer other methods of natural pain management such as trigger point injections, ozone therapy, and prolotherapy. (Click on the link to read more) These services are offered by our in-house Naturopath, Dr. Josh Donaldson. Dr. Donaldson offers a free 15 minute phone consultation to determine whether these modalities are right for you.


Post-Surgical Treatment

Recovery time from surgery can range from 3 to 9 months depending on the injury and procedure performed. This can be grueling for an avid surfer. Acupuncture has proven, through research, to speed up recovery time from surgery. In conjunction with your physical therapy regimen, acupuncture can help strengthen the affected tissue, relieve pain and soreness, and increase mobility and range of motion.

Common Injuries


Overuse is the most common surfing injury and most commonly affects the neck, shoulder, and back. The trauma from overuse affects muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and bursa. Symptoms can range from minor discomfort to severe pain.


The following are some of the most common surfing injuries, causes, and possible symptoms:


Neck pain can be commonly caused by overuse, improper structure, or a wipe out. While paddling, the neck is kept in cervical extension and relies on the strength and endurance of the back to maintain this position. The thoracic spine must be propped up in thoracic extension in order to give the neck the support that it needs to maintain its structure. These injuries are commonly seen in beginner surfers that lack the strength and endurance to maintain extension through the thoracic spine which then leads to strain in the neck. The neck can suffers acute injury during a wipeout where the surfer hits the water and the neck is whipped beyond its normal range of motion causing immediate discomfort.

Possible Neck Injury Symptoms- Local neck pain, decreased range of motion, headaches, pain that radiates into the arms, numbness or tingling in the arms, pins and needles sensation in arms. Often this radiating pain or numbness and tingling may travel all the way to the fingers.

Common Diagnosis- Muscle Strain, sprain, facet syndrome, pinched nerve, thoracic outlet syndrome, cervical subluxation.



Back pain can be commonly caused by maneuverability characterized by sudden forceful exertion, wiping out, or improper structure. Surfers with more advanced maneuverability in turning, and are attempting tricks, are prone to injuring the back/ spine. The injury can occur in an isolated movement during the attempt of a turn or trick or from an unsuccessful attempt which results in a wipeout.

Possible Back Injury Symptoms- Localized pain, decreased range of motion, weakness, instability, pain that radiates to ribcage or another area of back, pain radiating down leg, numbness and tingling radiating into leg and toes, and/or pins and needles sensations.

Common Diagnosis- Muscular tightness and spasm, disc herniation or bulged disc, facet syndrome, pinched nerve, vertebral subluxation, muscular strain, sprain, piriformis syndrome, or sciatica.



Shoulder pain is often caused by overuse, wipeouts, and improper structure. In order to take strain off of the shoulders while paddling, it is important once again to have strong extension through the spine wile drawing the scapula toward the midline and opening through the chest. Without this proper structure then the shoulder is prone to injury. Beginners often experience shoulder pain due to the lack in strength which puts strain on the shoulders. Repetitive shoulder dislocation causes the tendon to become loose and weak. Once tendon laxity has occurred, it becomes easy for the shoulder to slip out of socket while paddling or during a wipe out.

Possible Shoulder Injury Symptoms- Localized pain and muscular tightness, decreased range of motion, redness and swelling, weakness, and local tenderness.

Common Diagnosis: Dislocation, muscle strain, muscular tightness and spasm, sprain, bursitis, tenosynovitis, bicipital tendinitis, supraspinatus tendinitis, rotator cuff tear, and rotator cuff impingement.



Torquing of the knee during turning maneuvers, attempting tricks, wiping out, or even popping up can cause pain and injury. The stability and strength of the knee depends greatly on the strength of thigh muscles, ankle stability, and stability and flexibility in hip.

Possible Knee Injury Symptoms- Localized pain, redness and swelling, decreased range of motion, instability, weakness, and local tenderness.

Common Diagnosis- Tendinitis, Ligament sprain or muscular strain. Surfers may also experience a partial or full tear of one of the following ligaments: MCL, ACL, LCL, PCL, or meniscus.


Prevention and Care

As an athlete, it is important to receive regular bodywork, such as massage and acupuncture, to prevent repetitive injuries and vitalize the body in an effort to optimize the surfing experience.


Maintaining proper form and structure while paddling and surfing is just as important as your posture out of the water. Your muscles maintain “muscle memory” and you are constantly training them. If you have bad posture out of the water that will translate to your posture in the water and it is going to affect your surfing as well as make you susceptible to injury.


1001464_10151737023945649_579535201_nWarming up by stretching and doing jumping jacks or a quick run. Warming up before surfing is imperative as it makes the muscles more pliable and more resistant to injury.  It is also important to have a regular stretching practice in between surf. Flexibility not only will improve your surfing but may also prove to be useful during a wipeout when your spine, neck, or limb is pushed beyond its normal range of motion.

Stretches for Surfing Fitness by Dr. Tim Brown

Balanced Diet

Our expertly trained practitioners have the skill and knowledge to counsel you on a diet that is right for you. Diet is important for increasing energy and for the longevity of your surfing life. If you would like to still be surfing in your 70’s then it is important to make your health a priority now, including healthy eating habits.

Regular Treatment- Including Acupuncture, Massage, and Chiropractic

If you are injured or experiencing discomfort from overuse, you should be treated as soon as possible.  Not only is it important to prevent repetitive injury by strengthening the tissue and stabilizing the injury but the sooner you get treated the sooner you are back in the water. We don’t waste time, and take an aggressive approach to treatment to get surfers back where they belong…………… the water.



**ATTENTION- If you are experiencing loss of motor function, severe numbness and tingling, severe pain, or any other symptom that seems extreme or severe, contact your primary care physician immediately for evaluation. Persons that endure traumatic injury of any kind and severity should immediately seek care from their primary care physician before seeking alternative care and treatment.


Merck Manual Online


Photograph Credits:
Photos provided by– Special thanks to Jon, Jack, and everyone else at Santa Cruz Waves





Written By Daniele Uzes L.AC., DMQ, MTCM

Co-Founder of People’s Integrative Medicine & Acupuncture



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  1. Do you have anyone experienced with treating chronic hives no longer responding to cortisone shots? All allergy and blood work and skin tests have been done showing no causal agents.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for contacting us! I myself have had great success treating chronic skin disorders, including auto-immune pathologies and allergic reactions. I would love to work with you and try to tackle the root causes of your outbreaks and now to prevent them in the future. My business partner, Daniele, also has done a lot of work with skin disorders and allergic syndromes. If you would like to set up a 15 minute phone consult, free of charge, to address your questions regarding acupuncture, we would be happy to set that up. Or, you could just come in for a session! We are running a special through October 31st, $50 for your initial treatment. Just call our reception desk at 831-464-1605.

      Thanks, and good luck!

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