I tested a simple homemade device for osteoarthritis shoulder pain relief yesterday. I considered the AngleOar but wondered if there might be something simpler that doesn’t intrude into the cockpit or hinder entry and exit.The device described below reduced my shoulder pain by about 50%. It only takes a few minutes to make, involves only one small hole in the coaming, and costs $5 or less.
PADDLING MECHANICS, simplified. Paddling a kayak involves both pushing and pulling. As you pull with one arm you’re putting a pushing or at least stablilizing force on the other arm, even if you rotate your torso. My experience is that pushing causes more pain. With osteoarthritis, loss of cartilage creates an empty space between the ball and socket. This space opens with a pulling motion and closes with a pushing motion. When it closes you have bone rubbing on bone or tissue. Add bone spurs and you have pain, a lot of pain. So this device I made relies more on pulling than pushing.
MATERIALS. Short length of strong cord; carabiner clip; adjustable strap about 24” long with clips at each end; drill.
PROCEDURE. Drill a horozontal hole through the coaming at the front center. Pass the cord through the hole and tie it off to make a loop about 2” long. Clip the carabiner clip to this loop. Pass the strap through the clip, pass the paddle shaft through the strap, and clip the strap together.
PADDLING & ADJUSTING THE STRAP. This device will feel quite odd at first, but you should immediately notice some relief as the strap takes the brunt of the pushing force. You will be pulling against the strap with one arm. The other arm will move forward but without pushing against anything and hopefully that will reduce pain. This is similar to rowing. In essence the shoulder is somewhat at rest as it moves forward. The paddle angle will be very low but not impossibly low. I tried various positions and found the most comfortable was fairly far forward, again quite similar to rowing. You can experiment with your hands in various positions on the shaft, either closer to or farther from the center.
For comparison I also paddled without the strap. I noticed that the effort seemed much lighter without the strap–-because both arms were working, whereas with the strap one arm is doing all the work–-but the pain was double. Also, when I removed the strap I was aware of how unstable my bad shoulder is due to a huge joint space, and a large spur was grinding against the socket. As soon as I put the strap back on the paddle the grinding stopped. That’s a pretty good outcome for such a simple device.
An interesting benefit of this setup is that you can paddle with your thumb on the top of the paddle shaft. You don’t need to wrap you thumb around the shaft. This may help people who have asked here about thumb pain.
IMPROVEMENT NEEDED. I tried to wrap the strap twice around the shaft to keep the strap from moving laterally but this resulted in jerky movements. The strap needs something to hold it in the middle, perhaps simply another loop of cord and another carabiner clip.
MEDICAL NOTE. I don’t want to give medical advice but you should be aware that if you push your activities too far, a bone spur can either injure or sever the rotator cuff, which would make joint replacement and recovery more difficult.
I hope this helps a few people with ostearthritis. Let me know if you have any suggestions for improving this device.