carpol tunnel and tendonitus

I have been kayaking for a few years and have devloped carpol tunnel in my right hand. When I kayak my thumb and ring finger go numb. I also have tendonitus in both elbows. Last year I bought a Werner Little Dipper small shaft ergo paddle hoping that would help but I still had the numbness. Does anyone have any advice. I have tried a number of things but nothing seems to help.

Elbow lift/death grip.

– Last Updated: May-03-05 10:52 PM EST –

Try to make sure you're not flipping the paddle with the wrist on exit (this can lead to tendon problems) but lifting with the elbow. Gripping the paddle too tight on your pushing side or a bent wrist, can cause problems too. I've paddled marathon kayaks for over 20 years & have had some elbow problems. One of the best moves was to drop about 2-3cm from my shaft length. This eliminated my inner elbow problems on long paddles & helps to keep the stroke out in front of me. I find that I finish stronger with a shorter paddle. I did a 2 1/2 hour race last week, with no elbow problems, at 55. Good luck.

I had the surgery
in my right hand when my carpal tunnel worsened after a fracture. It is absolutely amazing, no numbness anymore. I also switched to a small diameter bent shaft paddle that I think helps with the other hand and shoulder problems.

Carpel tunnel is said to be mis daignosed over 98% of the time.

YOu need to talk to a good massage theapist who works with the muscles in the next are that cross under the clavacle. These muscles get impinged do to the improper technique of paddling.

A good massage theapist can show you also how to do some exercises to completely get rid of it.

I know 11 people over probably the last 9 years who said they had carpel (Drs. even said it) They ALL were fine after about 6 months with some massage and understanding their problems. NOne got surgury thankfully.


The “control” hand
The right hand tends to go numb because the grip is never relaxed (when using a feathered, right-hand-control paddle). The left hand gets a break on every stroke when the grip is released to rotate the paddle.

Try this…

When your port (left) side blade is in the water during the forward stroke, loosen the grip of your right hand and fully open your hand, allowing the paddle shaft to rest between your open thumb and palm (like you’re waving to someone with you’re paddle shaft still in your hand).

During breaks, it also helps to put your hands together (like in a prayer position) and stretch the carpal tendons by lifting your elbows up and holding your hands together.

wrist problems
I’ve been lucky to have not yet had major carpel tunnel issues. However, over the years I have developed strategies to keep paddling as my body ages. I think many would help you. 1) stop using a feathered paddle. 2) whatever paddle you use, grip it as loose as you possibly can, opening the fingers of the upper hand on each stroke. 3) try to find a paddle with some flex to the shaft. While inefficient for racing, flex acts as a shock absorber for your wrists, elbows and shoulders. 4) go with as narrow blade as you can find (less stress each stroke) 5) consider an Aleut or Greenland paddle. The wood gives some flex (reduced stress)), narrow blade (reduced stress from reduced bite each stroke) and propulsion accomplished by higher stroke rate not big bite each stroke. 6) go to lower stroke (less efficient, easier on body) and learn to paddle with more torso rotation and less arm work. 7) pay attention to wrist position throughout your stroke and try to keep them in a neutral position.

Best wishes as you find out what will allow you to keep paddling.

Have a very good
physician (sports medicine or physiatrist, or a hand surgeon) look at your arms, then have a skilled paddler look at your technique.

Often there are hidden, barely noticed, moments of gripping too hard, torquing the shaft a little, allowing the wrist to yaw, etc.–smidgeons of bad technique that can add up over thousands of strokes to major pain. Sometimes, it’s just that we haven’t given our bodies enough time to adapt to the workload–some books suggest increasing mileage 10% per year. I know most kayakers are too excited by the sport to ramp up so slowly, but it does prevent injury, as does doing frequent shorter paddles rather than weekend-only long ones.


I agree, paddle technique
has a lot to do with it. Before I tore my rotator cuff, I started having shoulder pain problems and elbow tendonitis. Recently, all that has subsided. Therapy on the shoulder did wonders and I think my paddling has improved by being more conscious of my strokes. For carpal tunnel, I had been seeing a hand therapist and an orthopedic surgeon who specialzes in hands and I trust their judgements.

switched to Greenland Paddle
I think that you’ve gotten great input on solutions. For me the answer was switching to a greenland paddle. Wrist and hand problems were limiting my paddling time anyways so I thought that it was worth it to take the time to carve a greenland paddle and see what effect the GP would have on my wrist and hand. That was two years ago and haven’t had the problem since I switched.

Good Luck.