Sciatic Nerve Pain Solutions

-- Last Updated: Jun-09-14 4:23 PM EST --

I am getting more into running easy whitewater -- 1 thru the occasional easy 3s. The one issue that has always plagued me kayaking is what I believe to be sciatic nerve pain. I am fine as long as I have some support right under the top of my thighs, either with a seat that raises or one of those Sealine thigh support pillows.

I am just getting ready to start to use a Remix XP10 as my whitewater kayak this season. For my build the XP 10 fits just right and snug (not sure I could go any smaller). On my one flatwater trip with it I was using the Sealine pillow but with the center support beam I felt a bit too locked in as a beginner WW kayaker. I probably would still be able to wet exit but probably lose the pricey pillow.

Any other suggestions beyond just rolling up cheap towels? I was considering knee blocks or maybe trying to glue some foam right in front of the seat but I have zero experience gluing in or shaping foam. I see that Padz makes knee blocks, which I was thinking of trying and that they also make a thigh pads but just from the picture it is hard to get a sense how the thigh pads would work (no real sense of scale).

I want to avoid feeling too locked in - I already fell like a have a good snug fit as it is.

Pool noodle
Some cases of sciatica resolve over time. I’ve had it several times and it always goes away in a couple of months.

I don’t know anything about whitewater kayaks. For a sea kayak an easy solution for leg support is to buy a large-diameter pool noodle at the dollar store, cut two pieces the length of the the front of your seat, tape the two pieces together for more height (might be about 5" high), and secure it at the front of the seat.

Any other type of foam will work as well. For just one leg you can also inflate a dry bag and tuck it under your knee.

Maybe since I don’t have a pool I never think about pool noodles.

I am going to give that a try as I can easily (and cheaply) make two of them to fit on either side of the hull bar.

Thanks again.

seat angle
Sometimes having the seat tilt a bit upward does the trick. I like a seat that has an upward slant - it seems to cradle my thighs better. A totally flat seat will start bothering me in about an hour. You have to experiment but that works good for me.

a few based on my own assumptions
I have the same problem and the best way for me to minimalize it is to keep fit - particularly my core. Nothing else works as well, not even drugs.

Google “Dr. Cox exercises for lower back pain”. Work on some good core exercises, abdominal muscles are critical. And consider yoga. I do the first and third regularly and feel like in addition to exercise, these keep my lower back more limber.

Pool noodle for that too
My seat happens to be intentionally loose. I stuff a pool noodle under the front edge of the seat. Helps a lot! Any kind of foam wedge will do, but be careful not to raise the whole seat, just the front, because even 1/2 inch or less will affect your stability (center of gravity)

Can you describe this pain?
Where is it?

Do you by any chance have a sedentary job?

good question!
I forgot to say that sitting at a desk in an office chair seems to be one of the worst things I can do for my lower back condition.

One explanation
Sitting down all day can make the hip flexor muscle contract permanently. That muscle runs from the top of the thigh into the lower back. Then when you try to get up the muscle doesn’t want to stretch and it pulls on the lower back. Very painful.

In my experience, that problem is also related to pain in the lower calf and a tight calf, which can feel like sciatica, or maybe it is sciatica.

Lesson: Get up from your work every hour and stretch and move around. And get out of your kayak every hour. Kayaking might be beneficial because it sends blood to the lower back muscles . . . or maybe it makes the condition worse in some people (e.g. with disc problems). I dunno, but I find it more painful to sit in my office chair for two hours than to paddle for two hours.

Comprehensive stretching exercise, as runner exercises – see Runners World – produce limber muscles for canoeing, kayaking, and bicycling. Sports giving confining positions.

Adding compression to sciatic pathways is not a good idea but if that support removes pain…

Decompressing the pathways then add support ?

I frequently get uncomfortable if I sit too long. The pain is in my butt and top of the rear of my thighs. I have never been a very limber person in general.

I noticed the pain while kayaking first like 10 years ago back when I did have a programming job and was renting kayaks. Now I am kind of semi-retired. Occasionally I have a long day sitting in front of computer but now it is when I am home and able to manage my own schedule but most days I am pretty active either working on the house or yard.

Honestly not sure the last time I actually felt the pain. My main goto kayak had the front seat lift supports and was always comfortable in it. The kayak before I had problems and that is when I added the thigh cushion and it went way.

I only had my new kayak out once so far since I bought it – bad case of tennis elbow and the never ending snow has kept me from paddling the last six plus months. I used the pillow again and was fine but haven’t tried it without it or a seat lift in eight years now.

I am going to take the pool noodles with me and see if I need them. I of course decided to get back into the paddling season by going on a three day trip within the next week.