Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)


Is it a sign of bad technique? Any other paddlers get this and get over it? It is a common over-use malady impacting mainly those age 30-50 years. What has worked for you? It feels like a funny bone sensation that does not go away. Just grasping a light object like a cup of coffee causes discomfort.

I had that, and I fixed it…
… permanently, though not instantly – with forward and reverse wrist curls, which I now do regularly. I’ve described the regimen a couple of times here, so search for “wrist curls”.

YMMV and IANAD. --David.

Not from paddling
I first experienced it when I was doing demolition on my kitchen/bath. The sledgehammer was really hard on it. Then moved on to painting with a roller and that really did me in. I was on steroids at the time and didn’t feel any issues until after I came off, by then damage was done.

My experience was that Aleve relieved the pain but PT was necessary to help break up the scar tissue. I still feel it at times, been over a year now since first getting it but this February was the painting trigger. A good physical therapist will show you what you need to do.

Basically you need to get the inflamation down and then work on exercises. David is spot on with his curls and stuff.

I would say that you probably shouldn’t be getting it from paddling unless you are practicing bracing incorrectly a lot - perhaps the jarring might contribute to it.

All through the issues, paddling didn’t affect the elbow although I was struggling to carry boats and gripping things in a certain way was impossible. Might have been a problem if I was doing rescues.

Oh - I do find working on my laptop on my lap is a big trigger for me. I stopped doing that. You should probably think about what repetitive things you are doing that may be causing it so that you can work on prevention.


Is it a sign of bad technique?

– Last Updated: Aug-28-07 12:57 PM EST –

Yes. Stop flexing your elbow. Too much elbow flex at end stroke is the culprit, and crucial that you fix this habit or will eventually require surgical fix. Study this vid:

Keep those arms out in front of you. Do not pull back as far ( do more like the racers, keep arms out in front). Pretend you have a toddler on your lap, and paddle with arms out; this prevents almost any flex at elbow at all. Over emphasize it, if you must (called "Frankensteining").

Another method is to get those hands really far out on the paddle--you cannot bend your elbows if you do this, paddle for a while, then slowly bring your grip in closer, all the while maintaining that almost straight elbow.

G'luck, ddipper.

WalMart sells bands that fit tightly just below the elbow to relief stain on the elbow.Works for me.Try keeping you elbow close to your side when lifting. I have tennis elbow often but luckily paddling does not bother it. It comes and goes once you get it the first time.

"Elbow close to side when lifting" -I’m visualizing this. Done with rotation, the paddle blade will end up so far behind your body which will definitely cause the boat to wag back/forth when paddling.

Done w/o rotation you will be paddling all arms and doing loads of pulling - all bad for the elbow.

Don’t pull in the elbow at the end of the stroke either - that’s not effective and should cause the boat to turn, it will in effect be a slight stern draw which can be used to correct your course but not for effective forward paddling.

Try instead the straight arm and hands apart thing that cool doctor suggested above.


close to elbow
Sorry, I meant lifting in general not when paddling.


toddler on the lap trick
I also used to get elbow pain paddling, until I took my dog (a 50 lb husky) out a few times. With her in my lap, I had to keep my arms much further out and much straighter–and my technique quickly improved, and pain decreased. You don’t need a dog for this to work! Just imagine a big beach ball in your lap, and keep those arms out. Good luck.

Oh, and when I dry-walled a cabin and then put up a ceiling, I got it again–the tools were too heavy. Neuromuscular therapy (a kind of massage technique) worked wonders, after 6 months of rest didn’t cure it.

Switch to a GP
Greenland Paddles cure most elbow ills. Worked for me.


Both elbows sequentially
Brought on by years of Golf, exacerbated by poor ergonomics in computer work stations. Did the arm-bands, anti-inflammatory, cortisone injections.

Finally some extensive PT including strengthening did the trick. This over a two year period. Gave up Golf. Got back to paddling, hunting, fishing, camping. Paddling canoes does not seem to bother but after a long or strenouous session will feel a slight twinge.

Sabona band
Some call it witchcraft

Some call it bahukie

I had horrible tennis elbow and was threatened with cortisone shots at the doctor. Those work once, but repeated ones may not work at all. And HURT

Bought a Sabona for $17 and within two weeks ALL signs of tennis elbow were gone. Doctor couldn’t explain it so go figure. Worked for me, still wear one of the magnet/copper ones today…never had a problem since, even when playing tennis, hitting golf balls out of deep rough, chopping wood, hitting nails with hammers, etc etc.