Kayaking and lower back pain

Hello. I am researching types of lower back pain and strategies for minimising back pain for a project essay. I have looked at threads here and would appreciate additional thoughts from kayakers on what they have experienced and their approaches to addressing problems once they started. Thanks in advance for any assistance and advice.

two words
Core fitness.

It sounds paradoxical, when one has disabling back pain, that exercise for fitness is the cure. But it is, at least partially.

I use a…

– Last Updated: Jul-03-14 9:20 AM EST –

12"x 12"x 1 1/2" pad I bought at Walmart for $10. Has a handle on it so it can be secured to the kayak. I find the more I paddle, the less my back bothers me. I also exercise regularly.


isnt exactly lower and comes from getting hit by a truck. I am carrying a few extra lbs but am hardly blubby and I am never going to exersize that Kenworth away.

A tall backband made a huge differance in fitting the boat to me for comfort for hours in the seat. Paddling CORRECTLY, from the core seems to be the trick to keep from getting sore in motion. IMHO, holding the box out in front of you and exaggerating a fwd stroke stopping at the end of each streched my back when I was getting tight.

Had an issue a couple years ago.
After the fact, I noted several changes, such as changes in my sleeping position leading up to it due to discomfort. I’ve never considered myself as having back pain. Just a little discomfort at the time. Then I had the total freeze-up. A scary experience for me.

The doctor offered nothing but pain medication. I declined, and thought I had better try a chiropractor. I had never been to one, but I did not want to just accept back issues with my active lifestyle. I was given exercises to do, which I began doing religiously, and he worked on little adjustments. I can’t guarantee 100% cause and effect. All I can say is that I noticed I got back to more comfortable sleeping all night, and I noticed I was falling asleep in normal positions again. It’s been 2 years and 4 months, and I’ve never had another episode, and my back feels healthier than it did beforehand. No back issues to speak of.

It probably helps that my perspective on things and the chiropractors perspective on things line up. He said lifting things didn’t hurt my back. Sitting in an office chair all day, day after day, does the damage in my case, and had slowly broken down my ability to do things that I consider normal, and should be able to consider normal. He said my goal should be to do what it takes to get back to where doing things like carrying an extension ladder or a kayak is not a concern. And that’s exactly what I did. I rejected pain killers and back pillows and supports for temporary relief of an ignored back issue, have focused on getting and keeping my back healthy through exercise and posture in all things, and am quite happy with how things have gone. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

As far as paddling, I always felt like I rotated through the hips easily on the right side, and felt a bit frozen up on the left. It always bothered me, but I sort of accepted it. I’ve managed to work that out, and that was a huge deal for me.

Some remedies

– Last Updated: Jul-03-14 1:17 PM EST –

I don't find that kayaking aggravates preexisting lower back pain that is caused by arthritis. In fact it may help it. I'm always surprised at how little back pain I feel after paddling for two hours---much less than after sitting in a chair for two hours.

My remedies:
1) Biking helps the lower back immensely, especially for someone who has a sedentary job.
2) Kayak seat back that provides ample lumbar support.
3) Inflatable cushion on the seat back.
4) Gym weight training twice a week
5) Two ibuprofen before paddling.
6) Get out of the kayak every couple of hours to stretch and walk around.
7) Regularly stretch the hip flexor muscles as tight hip flexors are a big cause of back pain in people who do sedentary work.

situps, crunches, stretches.

usually the answer…is…you lack exercise and more to the point stretching and ex for the complained of area.

EXRX solved 2 for me, the intra-scapularis, and I walk up the mountain no problem but going down…cramps.

Jane Fonda solved the vastus medialus for cycling.

How’s your vastus ?

I quit playing golf.
End of back pain.

I have chronic arthritis
My form of arthritis (spondylitis) will fuse my spine if not in motion. My physicians were amazed how kayaking ( my major form of exercise) has kept my arthritis at bay for nearly 20 years.

I believe that once you get your core muscles in shape, in most instances back issues disappear.

Proper form is essential, in my opinion proper form came about by paddlers that found out how to get the most power and efficiency, and not do damage shoulders and tendons while paddling.

i agree with what others have said. fitness is key. assuming we are talking about people that are not yet fit to the point that their back pain is in check, posture should be addressed.

different postures distribute force differently through the spine/musculature. some might find kneeling in a canoe easier than sitting in a kayak.

being able to stretch/change position periodically might help others.

those water hazards
… just don’t respond to the same way to a nine- iron.

My own kayak
with a basic seat bottom that agreed with my body, and that let me put my legs out where they needed to be, was the first thing. Then a paddle long enough that I didn’t have to contort myself to make strokes and could avoid whacking my hands on the sides without torquing my back. (Funny story, last year while going deliberately fast only in a head wind which was not helping matters, somebody younger goes by in one of those little puddle yaks and asks, what length paddle is that, a “xxx” in cm ( ?! ) I was not having a metric sort of moment, and all I could think was 6" longer than the rental place would have given me, so my hands won’t be black and blue when we’re done as I’m sitting higher, in a wider kayak.)

“Ergonomics” is the word I’m looking for here.

A good seatback helps, but I can forget my clip in seat and still paddle both my kayaks if I have to, and not get sore (as long as not racing).

That and improving core strength (lifetime project) via exercises and yoga. Stretch and warmup before getting in the kayak.

Also have to eat properly. And some foods/herbs are anti inflammatory, such as tumeric, ginger, etc.

It all adds up.

check their heels
Wander thru stores during the holiday season you’ll find cashiers in pain.

Examine their shoe heels: all worn down placing more and more new pressure on their pelvi, lower back moving pelvis tilt in wrong direction.

Remedy ? cut out heel pads from cardboard box, insert into shoe and pain goes away.

worn heels