leg pain while paddling

I have been experiencing a rather annoying pain shooting from my gluet to my knee,running down the back of my leg when I sit in my touring kayak. I also have this pain when I ride long distance on my road bike. Any suggestions? I do know my hamstrings are tight and I do stretch those. Thanks for any advice.

You need to describe the pain better, maybe paddle again and focus on what is happening. There are lots of reasons.

How does the pain radiate, intense or dull increasing ache, hurts every stroke, ow, ow, ow,…

Does it go away immediately after getting out or off the bike, can you run without the pain?

In my case of dull ache after 20 minutes, leading into an ow-ow pain every stroke, stretching did no good. After 2 false diagnoses, my PT and I focused on the SI joint, did (and still do) some super easy excercises, and it was mostly gone in 2 weeks.

When the problem cause is nailed, the cure is effective. If it isn’t, then the OT/PT/Doc may spend lots of your time and money chasing the wrong problem.


Keep stretching, but design
or get help designing a progressive stretching program that will achieve the desired result. What you describe sounds like muscle and ligament tightness, not nerve pain.

People vary in how readily their hamstring structures adapt to stretch. Some people are just genetically tight, but with patience and a progressive program, this can be alleviated.

Also note that both your bicycle and your boat may need to be adapted to you as an individual. Maybe you are expecting a bit more extension on your bike and in your boat than is actually necessary.

don’t wait to have it diagnosed
NOT a DOC, but have WFR training. This kind of pain is likely nerve pain, Sciatica for example. But it can have difficult to dx etiology. As they say, catch the early show on this kind of pain, before it becomes worse and eventually chronic.

Good luck!

I’m No Doctor

– Last Updated: May-10-09 7:51 PM EST –

But I did stay at a Holiday once. And I do ride a bike and paddle a kayak.

Try improvising some thigh support in the boat. A rolled up towel or two tucked under the thighs. On the bike try lowering the saddle a bit.

If those don't help you try an orthopedic sports medicine type doctor.

(That'll be $200)

A good chiropractor; yoga; a massage therapist.

I have nothing against traditional medicine and there are some nice nerve-pain drugs out there (bonus sleep like a baby without downers). But I found my chiropractor really could help hip/nerve pain - in spite of the fact that it seems like at least 50% voodoo to me. YMMV.

Can you touch your toes?
If you can touch your toes then maybe stretching will help. If you cannot easily touch your toes then regular daily stretching program will help a lot. It only takes 10 minutes a day to really improve your flexibility. You want the most beginner yoga or Tai Chi classes to start out.

Second the Chiropractor
Mine showed me a simple stretch that cured my sciatic nerve problem completely. I’ve had at least six problems that he’s had a nice fix for - exercises and stretches that work like magic!


you were fortunate. the kind you had was due to that ligament rubbing on the nerve exiting from the hip area. Many possible ways to treat a problem, once you definitively know what it is. This may not be a big deal. But, this kind of pain left unaddressed while hunting for remedies can become really harder to treat. No Butt about it.

not a doc but was a racing cyclist
the fact you have this with both sports led me to think sciatica. Pressure from cycling is right on where it runs down hip into leg down to toes.

of course modifying where you put pressure can reduce the inflamation.

But hope you get an accurate dx so can fix it fast, does not sound like fun

Seat angle and under-thigh support
It might be the edge of the seat coming up and cutting into the back of your thigh in a way that puts pressure on a nerve. I had a problem with my Vela that I resolved by cutting away the foam underneath so it lies quite flat rather than really rising up to cup my seat. Problem solved.

It might also be, as indicated above, that you need to get more support under your thigh. You can glue in minicell and shape it as needed, ahead of the edge of the seat.

Finally, you may need to glue in some minicell or try something like the Sweet Cheeks pad to get more padding directly under your sitz bones.

As to stretching, above mentions the piriformis. These are the deep tissues around the sit hip joints, and a glute stretch may not get to them. There are Yoga stretches that will get there.

Leg Pain
I have never experienced leg pain, but when I first started paddling, I had a problem with my legs going to “sleep”. The problem turned out to be improperly adjusted foot pegs.

A simple movement of the pegs forward or back, eleiminated the problem. I have also heard that a poorly fitted seat will cause problems with back and legs.

Foot pegs are evil

– Last Updated: May-11-09 2:04 PM EST –

Often forcing folks into limited leg positions that work for some and are hell for others. You feet may be 100% fine (and are likely OK and quite strong too from the cycling), but the problem causes odd alignments/tensions and really impacts the lower back and hips. Can easily trigger sciatica, etc.

Another common and closely related problem is circulation. This relates to the outfitting too, but even more so to your technique. Sitting upright (slouching/leaning back are horrible) and paddling with good rotation (arm paddling is a back killer) and leg work (dead legs puts it all on back) keeps the circulation going. Without it your lower body is just stuck in one position (likely a poor one as above). Cushy seats, thigh, and high back support make it worse as they limit this movement (and mask symptoms letting things get worse). Rec kayaks and SOTs often have the worst outfitting as far as all this stuff goes. Common to see their paddlers leaned back into a tall padded seat and arm paddling...

Whole body paddling may be habit for you already since you bike - and I assume are reasonably fit or more - but can't assume so. Also, know nothing about what you are paddling...

Could be lots of other things too (hamstrings! hamstrings! hamstrings! Try Yoga), but if you can ditch the pegs for a footboard/bulkhead style bracing surface it can't hurt as a place to start, and doing so always makes a difference. Odds are you won't need other junk like counter productive thigh and seat cushions, drugs, etc...

Full surface foot bracing, simple smooth seatpan, and a low narrow backband (for hip vs back support) has made a huge difference for me (chronic lower back spasms that lay me up for days, and shooting leg pains. I still get episodes, but never when paddling - and the more I paddle the less issues I have with this stuff off water).

PS - I'm talking about general touring type paddling. If you do WW, YMMV.

2 cents from a retired PT

– Last Updated: May-11-09 2:30 PM EST –

With the description of what aggravates the pain, a disc problem must be ruled out first. This can be ruled out often by the McKenzie principles which are: bending forward aggravates the pain & extension (back bending) may reduce the pain. This is done in the standing position. If forward bending of the lumbar spine increases the pain, it should be avoided as much as possible in order to give the disc a chance to heal. All sitting should be done with the lumbar spine in extension & supported by a lumbar support.

In my practice, I found that SI joint dysfunction,SIJD, often accompanied disc problems, but the disc must be treated first. An easy test for SIJD is to lie down and observe ankle bones for the apparent leg length. Get help with this. Sit up, & again observe the leg length. Asymmetry in the pelvis caused by SIJD will create a "crankshaft" effect which will cause the leg length discrepancy to be different in the 2 positions.

leg pain
Thanks for replying, I have seen and worked with a PT with moderated success on the bike. Not so much luck with the kayak yet. I see a massage therapist too but I think a chiropractor may be helpful. When I see one I will mention the SI joint.

leg pain
Thanks for replying and for the advice. My bike may need reajusting as the pain started when I started increasing my miles in the saddle. May need to revisit the PT too.

leg pain
Thanks for replying and for the advice. I have noticed that the pain came when I started increasing my mileage on the bike and it goes away once I am off the bike and have stretched. I will look into the position of the saddle–may need to be adjusted.

leg pain
Thanks for replying and for the advice!

leg pain
thanks for the advice, the chiropractor is next on my list of proffesionals to see.