Shoulder Pain

I have just gotten back into paddling. I have been going out a few times a week for an hour or so. Within about 10 minutes of starting to paddle I get an ache in my left shoulder. It is about 5" down from the top of my shoulder just, towards the outside about where the shoulder bulge gives way to the arm. It feels like a dull ache like when a shot is in the arm muscle.

I have experienced a similar ache before when doing a P90X, it eventually went away with an increase in fitness. I expect this will go away eventually also.

Just so you know I am not looking coming here for free medical advice. I visited a Orthopedic surgeon 2 years ago who x-rayed the shoulder and found nothing. I am hoping someone here has had something similar with an accurate diagnosis to share.

Had a pain in that area …
… this past winter and spring. I think I got it from overdoing it, after a looooooong layoff, on the shoulder weight machines at the gym.

I stopped the machines but not canoeing. I also began taking Osteo Bi-Flex (or the Walmart clone) type of glucosomine/chondroitin/MSM.

The pain went away after 3 months, but I don’t know why.

Not a doctor here.

My left shoulder is something like that.
Surgeon says it is inflammation of the tendon or ligament that attaches the muscle to the shoulder - sort of like tennis elbow upstream

he sent me to a PT who recommended exercises to strengthen the back of my shoulder.Done with bands ,the exercises are :External rotation ; Seated (or standing) rows; lay face down on a place your arm can hang over with your arm aimed at your foot and lift a light weight from the floor towards the ceiling with your palm facing up.

Technique is more important in avoiding tendon injuries than the exercises the doctor has recommended you use to strengthen the shoulder, at least in my opinion. Jc posted above that the correct technique is to move the paddle through the water by twisting at the waist and he’s right. This will completely avoid putting stresses on the shoulder and inhibit any further stress on the joint.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t do the PT to strengthen the shoulder, only that if you don’t change the technique, the stresses you put on your shoulder will not change and you will either aggravate the shoulder once you’ve recovered, or simply continue to have issues.

There are stroke mechanic classes and, once you’ve recovered a bit, it might be one option to improve your technique and reduce the risks of injury. You can’t rely on video off the web since there are some that show good form and others that are really, really bad and likely to cause injuries (such as many of the high brace examples shown online where the paddlers hands rise above the shoulders).

You can also take video of your stroke and then look at what you are doing to see if it conforms to what you thing you are doing (lots of us are surprised when we actually see video of ourselves performing an activity and realize that the technique is considerably less than the perfect technique our psyches think we are doing).


I have the same problem
I have the same problem. If I take it easy it only bothers me after a mile or so. If its windy and I have to dig hard Im done real fast. I enjoy the sport enough that I just bought a new yak that gos through the water a lot easier. I hope this helps me. I noticed my big box store yak plows through the water. Good luck!

I agree that technique is key to
protecting against shoulder injuries.

I have to also say that it is not possible to diagnose a given shoulder injury and recommend treatment over the internet. See a doctor if the pain doesn’t go away in a couple or three weeks or if the pain is severe.

I know exactly how to paddle and
have for years. I agree that it is the key to preventing the wrong stress on your shoulders BUT sometimes injuries go beyond technique and exercise.

Trigger point massage
Google “trigger point massage” and give a try. This is part of my daily routine to stay pain free with activities. The medical community is just starting to accept it. It’s hard to believe it isn’t used more or more well known.

Only a mile??
If your shoulder pain kicks in after a mile, you must have some serious issues that go way beyond poor technique or fitness issues. I am being treated with cortisone shots for a serious case of calcium deposits in my shoulder. I will probably have surgery in December. Trying to work it out so I miss the least amount of time in my kayak or on the slopes. I get 2 -3 months of relatively pain free motion in my shoulder per injection, but I still paddle 20-30 miles per week. That would be totally impossible without the cortisone. Until my first injection, I could not lift my arm 2" straight out without experiencing excruciating pain. I mean bring me to my knees pain. And ten minutes after my first injection, I was moving my arm like nothing was ever wrong with it. Guy that discovered cortisone should have won the Nobel prize for medicine that year!! Good luck with your shoulder. But you might want to to have a second opinion by a different orthopedic surgeon if 1 mile is an issue.

Don’t overuse NSAIDs.
Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc., all inhibit inflammation. But inflammation is an essential part of healing. In one study, men with rotator cuff injuries were put into an NSAID or a placebo group. After about 2 weeks, their shoulders were scanned and evaluated. The group that had been taking anti-inflammatories showed delayed healing compared to the placebo group. There are many other such studies. Use such medications only if you must to get through the day, and no longer than you have to.

Yeah, I know, I used to take naproxen routinely. But it wasn’t doing me any good.

Thoughts on responses
"I do know that the most common source of shoulder pain when kayaking is from anything that lets your arm get behind you. If you draw a line left to right through your shoulders you arms should not go behind that line."

That is definitely not it. My technique may not be what it once was but it’s not that sloppy. I am probably using my arms more than I should but no weird angles on the shoulder.

“Surgeon says it is inflammation of the tendon or ligament that attaches the muscle to the shoulder - sort of like tennis elbow upstream, he sent me to a PT who recommended exercises to strengthen the back of my shoulder”

Sounds right. I remember something like this from a long time ago rock climbing injury. I imagine it could be left over from that or from injuries from my whitewater boating days of awkward high braces to stay upright. I need to break out the theraband and do some sets of the exercises I know too well from the past.

See this thread