Mixed Plate
Injury Report: A Pain in the Neck (8/04)

The fateful day at Pipe

It started off as a simple neck ache. I wasn't too concerned because I've had them before. Riding Pipeline will do that to you. I've had countless wipeouts that tweaked my neck and I've learned to live with the occasional pain.

On March 13 (2004), I had a great session bodyboarding at Pipe, but during a duckdive of a set wave I once again torqued my head, hurting my neck. Nothing unusual.

But this one was different. The neckache lingered a lot longer this time--in fact, it wouldn't go away. I tried massaging it away on my own, but the morning after, I started getting tingling in my arm and fingers. Now I got scared. I figured if I rested it for a while, it might go away. But after a week, the tingling actually turned to numbness in my left arm and hand. It was time to see the doctor.

My family doctor advised me to get an MRI and X-ray. I had to wait a long week before I got the results, which was:

Brain: My brain is shrinking! Apparently that is normal.

1. Straightening of the normal cervical lordosis. No soft tissue or fracture is identified.
2. Mild disc space narrowing at C4-5 and C6-7.
3. On flexion, there is 2 mm anterior subluxation at C2-3, C3-4 and C4-5. On extension, there is 1 mm posterior subluxation at C4-5.
4. Mild encroachment upon the left C6-7 neuroforamen.

What does it all mean? Well, no brain problems or indications of stroke detected. However, I have two compressed discs and a pinched nerve between the left C6 and C7 vertebrae, which is causing the numbness in my left arm.

My doctor suggested I take it easy, strengthen my neck muscles and stretch more. He also said that massage therapy is OK, or even acupuncture. However, he sternly warned me against seeing a chiropractor.

So, I have decided to lay off on bodyboarding for a while, and approach critical waves with caution.

Epilogue: August, 2004. It's been five months since I aggravated my neck injury. The numbness actually is all but gone. I did go to a shiatsu massage and it felt pretty good. Still looking forward to acupuncture. In all honesty, I haven't been stretching as much as I should. I still approach waveriding with caution, but I plan to get back into bodyboarding soon. Maybe the fact that I've turned 40 has something to do with this slow recovery.

Growing old can really be a pain in the neck!