Best paddle choices for joint problems?

I am searching for advice on the best type/brand of paddle for flatwater kayaking for someone with joint problems. I currently use a Bending Branches Whisper Dream, and I really like the construction/quality of the paddle, but am left with much aching and sometimes numbness in my hands (I have arthritis) after kayaking for any notable distance. I’d appreciate any suggestions to point me in the right direction. Thanks so much.

Try an Epic
Length lock active touring paddle.

They are as light as a feather and you can adjust the length and feather to get it the exact way you want.

There are others that are good, but the “length lock” feature makes it unique.

Also don’t keep a tight grip on the shaft.



Two word answer
Greenland paddle. They are easy to hold, you don’t “grip” them, just forefinger and thumb and no “cocking” the wrist as they are not off-set. Easier on the fore arms and shoulders too for this over sixty paddler.

I had the same problem until I realized that the latex gaskets coupled with a too tight grip on my paddle was what cause wrist/hand pain and numb hands.

Since then I have trimmed the gaskets, loosened my grip somewhat, and use a Greenland paddle.

No pain…

…you could also try seeing a Massage Therapist for “Carpal Tunnel” issues in your scalene muscle. If a certain scalene is tight (you have 3 sets), it will pull your first rib up against your clavicle causing pressure on the nerve. Most people don’t notice the pain until it reaches the restricted Carpal Tunnel area of their wrists. Thats why, the majority of people eventually have pain again after CT surgery…the wrist wasn’t the problem to begin with. Good luck.

noticed the same thing
Over four years ago, I did some long days on a multiday trip in cold conditions with a heavily loaded boat, too big of a blade, too tight of latex wrist gaskets in conditions that had me concerned enough and being novice enough that I also gripped the paddle too tight. Presto! Tenosynovitis on day 4…and not in the control hand wrist. I’m still fighting it four+ years later and my wife is a physical therapist who knows a thing or two about these types of injuries. The latex gaskets are trimmed way back now–those things should come with a warning. There is a neoprene wrist brace she ordered for me and when I’m wearing that, I seem to be essentially immune from pain in that wrist.

A little off the point, but maybe it will help somebody.

Should be in a canoe w/ 10 oz paddle,

– Last Updated: Jun-27-05 10:04 PM EST –

but if you insist on a joint abusive kayak look to some of the newer, lighter paddles such as AT makes. I used one last week that was only 16 or 18 oz I believe. Price? Between $400 and $500?

Also look over the Nashwaak info as these are very gentle on joints:

Good luck,


Oh yeah! Always get the smallest blades you can get. The pros get the smallest ones and then cut them down.

Very fine tips here.

– Last Updated: Jun-27-05 11:04 PM EST –

If you can find an experienced paddler, have them check your shaft length/style when paddling. I had some elbow pain for several years & shortening has really helped. Surplus shaft or blade can be brutal. Good luck!

Greenland paddle
I was limited in paddling until I stared using a greenland paddle. My shoulder was constantly bothering me and now I can paddle as much as I want with minimal discomfort. The greenland paddle and stroke can be less stressful on your joints. I made a greenland paddle for a friend who’s hand would go numb when using a euro paddle and now she say’s that she has no symptoms when using the greenland paddle. You can make your own for $6. I wouldn’t trade mine for a $500 euro paddle. Give it a try, you have nothing to loose.

Okole and DonG
are wise. A Greenland Paddle is a wonderfully gentle way to move your boat. The catch, actually LACK of catch is very smooth such that your joints do not receive the jarring that a Euro paddle delivers. While many GP’s are slightly heavier than euros, you do not hold the paddle as high, and the stroke requires less movement, hence less lifting of the weight.


I’ve been considering trying a GP
Is the rule of thumb length, arm extended straight up fingers curved over top of blade, the way to go? If not, why not?

Oh really???
Exactly what makes a kayak “joint abusive”? That sounds like nothing but a crock of bull from a canoe fanatic. If you’re having joint problems in a kayak, it’s typically due to poor paddling technique, sometimes the wrong equipment for the job or you’re doing things that your body isn’t ready for (whitewater, surf, etc.). There is nothing about kayaking that is inherently more rough on the joints than canoeing. For that matter, if I had to kneel in a canoe for hours, I’d probably have a really hard time getting up afterward. Now THAT’S joint abuse! :wink:

It depends on your body proportions
Another common measurement is arm span plus a cubit (the distance from the bent elbow to the tip of the fingers). However, you need to take your proportions into consideration. The Inuit people that developed these anthropomorphic measurements have relatively short arms and legs for their height. I have long arms and legs for my height (6’). If I followed the rules, I’d be using a 96" (244cm) paddle. I’ve been using 90" (228cm) paddles and if anything, they’re a bit long. Most adult men are well served with a paddle in the 84"-86" range. Since the first GP you make will not likely be the last, start with something in that range and take it from there.

If you email me, I’ll send you some docs on various aspects of making GP’s.

Wind Swift
It has smaller baldes, but still plenty of power

trial and error
That measurement will get you close to what you need. There are many variations in greenland paddles and you have to do some trial and error before you find what works best for you. With your paddle grip keeping your hands closer together on a greenland paddle your stroke is as low as your deck will allow. The lower the deck the greater the benifit. There is much technique to using a greenland paddle that makes it a joy to use. With the proper technique your stroke can have just as much bite as any other paddle. Make a couple of different dimensions and you’ll learn more technique. The wide range of technique takes time to develope and is extremely rewarding.

Lots of things could be wrong
Technique, overdoing it without enough prep, too long a paddle, too large blade size, feathering angle, too small a shaft diameter (yes, I did say too SMALL a diameter, not the other way around), blahblahblah.

Almost every time I have rented a kayak, the paddle that came with the rental was too long and the blade too large. Though I normally do not get joint pain with my 215cm Nimbus Zephyr’s long, narrow blades, I do feel some with these rentals, or I just feel very uncomfortable and inefficient.

Can you borrow shorter paddles with smaller blades? It might help to rule out some of the causes of your pain.

Greenland paddle
I agree with okole, slovrien, DonG and Jsaults. Try a Greenland paddle.

Thanks for the reply
guys, I’ve sent Bnystrom an E-Mail for the information he mentioned. I now paddle with a Tooksook paddle using a 90% feather. This paddle works best with a low stroke so switching to a GP shouldn’t take too much adjusting on that score. I don’t experience any wrist problems because I don’t flex the wrist for the catch, instead I bend the elbow.

My boat is a KajakSport Artisan Millenium. The foredeck is fairly low and should work well with the Greenland stroke.

Do you wear gloves? I wear them year-round because a good paddling glove helps grip the paddle, minimize blisters, absorb some shock and save wear and tear on the joints.

I also prefer a bent shaft, I have occasional numbness with a straight shaft, just can’t seem to get the grip right.

About Your Small Shaft…
I too have a small shaft on my spare Little Dipper.

I put tennis racket grips on it and not only helps the grip but cushions it too… ;>)