kayaking and arthritis

I’ve been paddling for about 4 years and absolutely love it. I go every weekend and my family now has 6 in the garage. Imagine my devastation when I went to the doctor with pains in both shoulders and was diagnosed with athritis! I haven’t seen a specialist yet, but my general practitioner has already hinted that I should give up kayaking. I went over the weekend and tried to paddle minimally, but still had horrible pains afterward. Does anyone have any experience with this and can give me any tips?

Osteoarthritis ?
Found with mine the more exercise the less it hurts. Beware that after you turn 50, lots of doctors think you are destined for the rocker as the only form of exercise.

Docs say athritis to easily sometimes,
Doc has told me my aches and pains are athritis. Think about an inversion table to keep your back maintained and your shoulders will also benefit. Paddling and inverting has helped minimize my athritis pains …

See a Rheumatologist

– Last Updated: Jan-17-07 10:44 AM EST –

Staying active is often part of their recommendations. But - you need to be properly evaluated first. Do yourself a favor and don't put it off.

A few additional thoughts on this:
I know a Rheumatologist well, and have had many discussions on the subject. That's the limit of my knowledge, and it isn't much.
One thing I do know, is that there are more medications for those sufferring from this than there used to be. There's no cure, and not every medication available is suited for each individual. But that said, there are treatments available that can slow the progression of this disease. It's very important to see a good Rheumatologist early on, and get a proper evaluation. Not every 1st guess from a General Practitioner is correct on this subject, and not every person who's told they have arthritis actually does. If there's something you can do to slow the progression of this, if indeed you have arthritis, do it. Otherwise, once the damage is done to the joints its done.

NOT pushing paddles …
Just want to know what you are currently useing and maybe can offer help from my nickles worth of knowledge.

HOW and WHAT you are paddling can also be part of the diagnosis and help alleviate some stress.

Please feel free to email off board if you like.

I have artheritis in my fingers, and a lot of the stuff I do hurts. I have found that paddling hurts a lot if I have not done it for awhile, but my artheritis does not hurt that much once I get used to it. Beeing cold is terrible, and cold together with paddling even worse. I use ibuprofen and glucosamine/chondroitin. Read “the Artheritis cure”.

I paddle both canoe and kayak and my fingers are better when using the canoe paddle than when using the kayak paddle. Exercise is important when you have artheritis so doing nothing is bad advise. Try different tecnique, different paddles, canoe instead of kayak paddle etc. to see if that helps.


I am 61 with artheritus both in my hands and neck, and yes it is worse during the cold months but glucosimane is a tremendus help, I take 750 mg a day.

If you try it don’t give up to soon as you need to take it for a few weeks before you see signs of it helping.


listen to people here
I would look for a specialist or another gp.

Try a different paddle and try modifying (or correcting) your stroke. Get more exercise and try to focus on flexibility exercises.

You might start taking glucosamine. From what I’ve heard the benefits come more from long-term use but never too late to start.

All of this has been said above and all is good advice, it has helped me ward off arthritic symptoms.

paddling and shoulder surgery
You need a better diagnosis, x-ray, etc.

Here is my story:

Take the advice of dave_216
If you do have rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), it is possible to reverse the damage, but let it go for a couple of years, the damage may not be reversible. If you are diagnosed as having RA, it will still take time, maybe even months to find the right combination of drugs to stop the damage your immune system is causing. One of the early signs that it is RA and not OA is that the symptoms tend to happen “symmetrically”; that is to say the pain happens in joints/muscles on both sides of your body. The first sign of trouble for me also, was shoulder pain in both shoulders, but one seemed worse than the other. At the time, I was paddling at least twice a week (and jogging 4 days a week) frequently, was in pretty fit shape (44yrs old at the time) so initially, I was miss-diagnosed with overuse (tendonitis), when the foot pain started, again diagnosis was plantar fascitis. Long story made short, within the year I was in severe pain, and everywhere and I finally got the news that RA was indicated in blood tests (follow-up x-rays confirmed RA). It’s been a little over 2 years now; I’ve been seeing a specialist for the past year. I’m on a Methotrexate/Enbrel mix with occasional Aleve for bad days. I’ve swapped the running shoes for a recumbent bike, and I haven’t dipped a paddle in over a year (miss it very badly). But this latest cocktail of drugs is working much better than previous combos, and Doc says that if I continue to improve over the next 2 months, he’ll have no objection to me getting back in the boat.

My point? Do yourself a favor, and take care of this quick. If it is RA, you could be paddling again in a month or two (if you hit on the right Rx soon enough), but if you ignore it, you will eventually deteriorate to the point where you won’t be able to get in or out of a kayak (much less have a chance at any self-rescue), Heck, at the moment, I pretty pleased that I can shave or button my own shirts again. Good luck, don’t let the frustration get to you and be wary of the snake-oil salesmen.

Agree with the evaluation
I maybe skipped over this too lightly in my earlier post, which went by the possibility that what you have is something requiring more serious attention. By all means get evaluated by someone who will give you a more complete and informative status than what you got, which sounds like “you have arthritis so stop paddling”. That’s just not satisfactory.

see a good physical therapist
Count me in as having osteoarthritis (right hip and spine) and having a degenerated right rotator cuff. I can say that I have experienced some relief from taking gluocosimine condroitin over a period of time. Last summer things got to the point where my sleep was interrupted by throbbing. I went th an orthopedist then physical therapy where I learned proper stretching and strengthening techniques. The idea is to build up muscles that off-load the joints and to extend the range of motion so that the same spot is not taking all the contact. I found that this has helped a lot. But the aches are still there and I do not expect them to go away. BTW I typically paddle for 1 1/2 hours twice or three times a week.

First things first
Listen to Dirty Ed’s song “Rich Kid Doctor.” That’s the first thing you have to do.

Then the next thing you have to do is find out whether this is rheumatoid arthritis or just getting old arthritis. If it’s RA, you need a specialist. Now. If it’s just getting old, tough it out. You don’t have any choice anyway, may as well get used to the idea and take it head on. I was born with birth defects in my legs. That’s got nothing to do with arthritis, except that it’s painful. I’ve dealt with pain from exercise my whole life. It is what it is. You get used to it.

Next, I do have arthritis (the just getting old type) in both knees and both shoulders. I’ve also got discogenic degenerative disorder in my lower back (and so do a lot of you, too in all likelihood). Probably have arthritis in there and some other areas too. It’s just pain. Life’s too short to worry about that crap. Get on some Glucosamine. If you get a formulary with MSM in it, the MSM is a catalyst that helps your body to absorb the Glucosamine. That’ll give you a LOT of relief. Then, either get used to pain (not easy to do) or get some relief from topical things like IcyHot or warmth patches, and maybe also some internal analgesics like aspirin or ibuprofen. It’ll still hurt, but not as bad. There’s an OTC topical spray called StopPain that is nothing short of amazing. I’ve got some prescription stuff, but it’s just basically a slow release ibuprofen in a large dose. When my back hurts bad enough to make it hard to stand, I take it. Otherwise, I just whine and drink and get out there and DO something.

It sucks getting old, but it sure beats the alternative. Whatever you do, and assuming it’s not RA, don’t stop. Slow down a bit maybe, but don’t stop. Never stop until your spirit flees your body.

  • Big D

Before you take advice
on supplements, exercises etc… Get a firm diagnosis from a specialist either a rheumatologist or an orthopaedist so you can start a course of action to slow disease progression.

Stay active. If your shoulders hurt when paddling, walk, cycle, skate, ski. Just keep moving.

You may find using a Greenland Paddle or a small bladed paddle such a Windswift can really ease shoulder pain.

…kind of what I ment by warning you
about snake-oil salesmen. See the specialist. RA (even OA) pain waxes and wains, fooling you into believing that one thing or another that you tried “helped”. The pain will continue to wax and wain, and continue to get worse, and spread.

To paraprase my RA Doc, Hey if your spending $100 bucks a month on supplements that you believe are helping, more power to you, but as an MD I gotta be straight with you…

So be careful.

Here’s a cut and paste from; http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/glucosamine.html

“The best-designed and most comprehensive study was published in 2006 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The 24-week study, which was funded by NIH, involved 1583 patients who were randomly assigned to receive 500 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride three times daily, 400 mg of sodium chondroitin sulfate three times daily, 500 mg of glucosamine plus 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate three times daily, 200 mg of celecoxib (Celebrex) daily, or a placebo. The study found that glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or together, did not reduce osteoarthritis knee pain more effectively than a placebo. The drug group did about 17% better than the placebo group [6].”

do not give up
First of all - as someone here said, get a good diagnosis. That way you will know what you are dealing with.

You may have to try various paddles and perhaps paddle styles. You might have to buy a very expensive very light weight paddle.

Read everything you can about alternative therapies and try some. Look up the benefits of food grade hydrogen peroxide and see if this cheap but questionable therapy sounds worth a try. It helped my back last spring.

On a humorous note you could baby your shoulders in terms of household duties, let someone else take out the trash or bring in the groceries as you are saving your shoulders for paddling.

Many problems have been in my path and many remain. Don’t give up.