paddle for joint pain relief

I went to an orthopedic guy years ago with knee pain. He practically gave me the rolled eyes and a “well DUUUHH!” when I told him I didn’t warm up on the bike. The older I get the more warm up time I need.

Go Greenland
I doubled my seat time in a kayak with a Greenland paddle. So far I can only detect .2 mph difference and I have a lot less shoulder fatigue at the end of the day. I had been told about these paddles but I was a non believer until I paddled with one for a couple of hours. You can try one or buy one made of wood for less than $125.00. If you do not like it, I’ll bet my shorts you will, you can flip it on this net. Now if you like it, there are some outstanding units made of carbon!

If you’re into woodworking, doing a GP will be very straightforward - there are plans all over the internet for Greenland paddles. Chuck Holst’s are a great starting point. And there’s a tonne of info at

More specifically, here…

Once you’ve made and used one or two, I’ll bet bucks to buttons you’ll never buy another paddle…

rotation - GP
"How in the heck can you keep your but planted in the seat and rotate your belly button more than a few inches from side to side?"

Easy, you don’t keep your butt planted. You rotate all the way down to your sit bones. As your blade enters the water you push on your stroke-side foot and rotate your butt in the seat. Your hip should move back and around so that your non-stroke side hip moves forward. This is why some flatwater races wax their seat or use a swivel seat – to maximize rotation.

I have to agree with the others on using a Greenland paddle for shoulder pain. A lot of the benefit is due to the stroke – because you hold your hands closer together you don’t have to lift the paddle very high, even for a vertical stroke. (Using a Greenland paddle does not mean that you must use a horizontal stroke). Less lifting means happier shoulders at the end of the day.

Greg Stamer

Type & weight definitely not secondary
What causes joint pain is undue pressure on the shoulder. A heavy kayak, heavy paddle, large blade, and paddling style all contribute.

If you make 10,000 strokes in a day, the extra weight of the kayak and paddle will certainly add up. Speaking from experience with the Werner Athena versus the Kalliste, the Athena moves quite a bit less water with each stroke and adds up to a significant difference in comfort by the end of the day. You make more strokes, but each one is less traumatic to the shoulder.

And since energy is at a premium for an injured paddler (i.e., he can only take a certain number of strokes before the pain begins), you don’t want to waste energy by pushing a lot of water with a large, floppy plastic paddle.

Elbow pain
My wife has a bad elbow from previous sports injury. Switched to a smaller blade helped a little. She claimed to be using proper torso rotation and still had pain so I took to watching her elbow and telling her when she wasn’t using her torso. It didn’t help her disposition much, but did get rid of the elbow problems.


I don’t think that paddle size is going to make that much of a difference. It may, but I doubt it. If you’re using a 60 degree or more feather, try dropping it to 45. That might help.

What will really help is rehab. It took me two years of hard work in the gym and home to come back from a shoulder issue and bad tendinitis in my elbows, but it worked and this year I did a 45-day, 800-mile trip without significant pain. It’s all about rehab and icing the pain when you have it.

Canoe paddle

– Last Updated: Sep-17-11 11:19 AM EST –

Lot of good info about relieving strain with a kayak paddle. Any advice on accomplishing the same when canoe paddling? Especially where technique is concerned?

double blade paddle in canoes
There is a long history of using double blade paddles in canoes. By the way it is not a “kayak paddle” it is a double blade paddle-paddle doesn’t change when used in a canoe or a kayak. Likewise a single blade paddle used with a kayak is a single blade paddle, not a canoe paddle.

To use a Greenland or Aleutian paddle in a canoe you would have to size it longer to adjust for the canoe width and whatever your seating height is. The wider the canoe the longer the paddle shaft has to be and the more wobble introduced with each stroke. I use an Aleutian paddle in both kayaks and in my admittedly narrow Rapidfire canoe. A retired person was complaining about shoulder pain when paddling his 29" wide rec. kayak. I suggested he try my Aleutian paddle and he felt better. He had a Greenland paddle made and for the last three years he has been happy to be paddling pain free

There is also the issue of paddle drip when using double blades with canoes. If you are freaked out by paddle drip, forget double blades with canoes. I leave a sponge on the bottom and squeeze it out every 20 min. or so. Works for me, but some will find the drip appalling. You draw your own lines and then make your own strokes.


Aleut paddle reducx

– Last Updated: Sep-18-11 10:30 PM EST –

(Apologies for the slip of the fingers in misspelling the title. )

I go back to the advice I gave on trying an Aleut paddle (or at least a Greenland paddle). I'm using this specifically for relief and prevention from my repetitive strain injury and my shoulder operation issues and it works well. It's only perfect if your form is good, BTW, so you have to practice form too. But still.....

And it's a hell of a conversation piece. Guaranteed!

I had one guy question the efficiency of it at a kayak store. Showed him just how damned efficient it actually is on the water. People quiet down about the difference once they see them in action.

Realistically, the Aleuts were arguably the world's greatest small craft seafarers, and that was in really dicey conditions. One mistake and you're dead! Even getting too tired out on a hunting expedition and you're dead. So they knew what the hell they were doing. Evolution weeded out the mistaken designs, I'm quite sure, and what resulted was the Aleut design.

The GP served for eastern dudes for their conditions.

There are lots of dinghy oar designs in Europe that use slim long blades too. So clearly, the disadvantages that people expect between slim and fat blades are not really true.

Another option is a single-blade paddle

– Last Updated: Sep-19-11 9:24 AM EST –

to use in your kayak. Especially, if you have a rudder or a fairly straight-tracking kayak, it is just about the easiet paddle on shoulders and wrists. Easier than a Greenland paddle too, not to mention at a weight of as little as 7-8oz, you hardly know you are holding it.

Only "drawback" is that it does not work nearly as well for "surfing" and high-power applications, but I gather these are not your top list -;)

For about $10 I made a blade to try and play with - sometimes I take it as a spare or on slow paddle outings I may use it as a primary. Easy to make: a length of curtain rod or similar, a piece of thin plywood, and a couple of pieces of fiberglass or carbon, a couple of oz of epoxy... Length for kayak use should be shorter than for canoe - something like 42-46" would probably work best. In fact, you do not need the fiberglass/carbon to just try it, but the plywood will likely break if you put even a little extra power to the water. Basically, cut the curtain rod at an angle on one end (to get the 12 degree or so "bend" a typical "bent shaft" canoe paddle would have), glue the plywood there, screw/glue a short handle on the other end (made of 3-4" of the same curtain rod, slightly flattened on one side for better contact with the paddle shaft) and you are ready to go. You do not even have to use epoxy for this - just good Tidebond III glue will work. You may want to use some old can of floor polyurethane finish to waterproof it a bit and you are good to go for a test paddle to see how it feels in the water. Just do not put too much power or the plywood will snap at the neck without reinforcements.

EDIT: in fact, you can try that with just half your regular paddle. Granted, no handle (you can put a tennis ball on top for comfort if you do not have a t-grip that is available for some paddles) and the shape of the half paddle is not optimized for a single-blad use, but you may be surprised how good a half regular paddle feels for easy cruising in a kayak.

Three fold remedy
1. Carving a GL paddle.Fairly time consuming but pretty simple woodworking project.Also inexpensive totaling less than $15.00 for the tung oil and polyurethane.Material for the paddle is laminated hem-fir and spruce I had laying around.

2. Exercise,stretching and icing for the tennis elbow and laying off paddling for a few weeks.

3. Purchased a BAND IT brace which works very well while carving the paddle so I anticipate it working well when I finish the paddle and get back on the water.

Thanks for the suggestions.

^great advice. try this first^
You may save yourself some cash if nothing else. And if you maintain inferior form it will be with you whichever paddle you choose.

Good Stuff!

– Last Updated: Sep-21-11 4:11 PM EST –

Great to hear you are starting your first GP - bet it won't be your last! Please let us know how it works out...

Re the Band-It - those tennis elbow straps are miracle drugs - I used several others, which weren't nearly as good. Soon as I adjusted the Band-It properly, the pain just went away during activity...amazing improvement. It compresses the muscle enough to allow it, rather than the damaged tendon, to take the strain of of mine lives in my 'going paddling' ditty bag, the other does general duty...

be careful

– Last Updated: Sep-21-11 6:28 PM EST –

When I had tendinitis I was told to brace the elbow if possible but not to constrict the tendons or muscles. You could inhibit movement, cause more swelling and reduce blood flow to the injury. The rest of the prescription included three weeks of no activity for the injured area followed by PT followed by light use progressing to regular use. If I can locate the PT exercises I'll post them.

maybe just me
But from someone else who has suffered from tendinitis, it seems that in the long run the best move would be to completely heal the injury before paddling. If you’re trying to make it until the off-season before doing this, I can certainly understand.

Yes. Also, are you paddling with others?
If you go out with the blow-their-wad types, you could get sucked into immediately blasting off in sort of an unspoken geek race. No warm-up at all. Not good for learning, or for improving your stroke. Very bad for your body. Been there, done that in kayak, on foot, and on bike.

If those same people consistently poop out a few minutes later, you know you’re in one of those pseudo-races.

Ignore those people and warm up by yourself instead. You will be able to catch and pass them after a few minutes. Or it might take something like a headwind coming up (or a climb, on bike) to reveal deficiencies in technique or physical condition. Whatever the case, to protect your body you need to listen to IT, not THEM. I’ve heard this stated as “Go slow to go fast.”

Waxed seats, huh?
Whatever you do, don’t wear smoothskin-outside neoprene shorts or tights. My gawd, does it stick to seats (minicell or glass) and some thigh braces. Nice for windblocking when wet but horrible for freedom of movement in a kayak.

Band-It Clarification
Slushpaddler is absolutely right - I should have made it clear that the Band-It must be combined with appropriate rest, physio, and possibly anti-inflammatories.

Mine is positioned about two finger widths below the elbow with the hand relaxed, then adjusted so that I can feel the restriction when I clench my fist. I think it works by creating just enough compression to have the muscle act as a sort of shock absorber, protecting the tear from being further aggravated by mini-tears. I was cautioned to avoid continuous re-injury, as this can create scarring that makes full recovery very difficult.

Once the initial injury (in outport Newfoundland, its often called ‘chainsaw elbow’) started to heal, a series of exercises strengthened the forearm muscles so that it seldom bothers me now…knock on wood…