Tendonitis and Paddling???

I am prone to tendonitis (always have been long before I started paddling). May be due to a health condition I have that has joint inflamation as one of the side effects (ulcerative colitis).

Paddling tends to make my tendonitis worse.

Particularly I notice issues with my wrist and sometimes hand on my control hand side. Also get tennis elbow on this side (which really is just inflamation of one of the tendons in your forearm as I understand it). Also get some occasional inflamation of the tendons in the lower bicep which may be the result of a partial tear several years ago that still causes me a lot of problems.

Now I know that I one way to prevent this is to concentrate on not gripping the paddle too hard / opening your hand while your other hand pushes.

I have two paddles: a 210 Werner Cyprus and Ikelos. I usually use the Cyprus (smaller one) and use a 30 degree feather.

I was wondering if anyone out there can provide more advice or explanation of what is going on and what I may be able to do about it.

And no…I do not “arm paddle.” I have pretty good forward paddling form / good rotation etc.

I have a referral to see a physical therapist / occupational therapist, but I am skeptical about whether this will be beneficial for me or not.

thanks for your help


NASIDs are a food group…

…you can buy those arm bands that fit right below

the elbow. They change the geometry enough to help

the tennis elbow.

And there are some exercises you can do t help it.

With a two pound weight, flex your hand up 100

times, rotate your hand with the thumb up and flex

the hand up 100 times, palm up for 100 times, then

stick your hand behind you with your pinky up and do


Those exercises were given to me by a physical

therapist and they really helped.

Try unfeathered
I have the same issue from 30 years of competitive racquetball. One arm is prone to tendinitis due to years of wear and tear. It also happens to be my “control” arm.

I stopped paddling feathered, and problem solved as far as paddling is concerned. Which made me a natural for becoming a GP’er, which seemed to help a little, too.

YMMV, but it’s worth a try, IMO.

Hey Matt,

In the past control wrist tendinitis was a real problem for me. Here are a few common sense suggestions:

–Not a pleasant answer, but slow down your training to allow your joints to recover.

–Paddle unfeathered.

–Switch to a more user friendly paddle like an unfeathered bent shaft AT (helped me a lot)

–NSAIDS have long been thought to be contraindicated in UC, but there is some data suggesting that the COX2 inhibitors (Celebrex, Mobic) might be helpful and not harmful.

–Best suggestion of all: try a GP. This is what cured me of all my various musculoskeletal ailments. Won’t go into the Euro/GP issue except to say that many of the best paddlers (Flatpick, for example) go back and forth easily, so if you try a GP it will fit nicely with your emphasis on skills development.

Best of luck,


NOT as much but a lot of R B too …
AND THEN met a girl who played tennis … what to do ? Did not want to mess up my RB wrist so I taught myself to play tennis with my right hand instead ! Now I can switch back and forth on the either court … frustrating for people but fun to do.

Both my elbows ‘rattle’ now.

Stop eating fruit/fructose and your illness and tendon problems will likely subside.

smaller shaft diameter?
For reasons only known to me I used a bentshaft Lendal on my last trip after using a straight Swift (smaller diameter shaft) all summer. I developed a nasty case of tendinitis that slowly receded when I switched back to the smaller diameter shaft.

Other than that, I would say flexibility exercises for the wrist and elbow.

OR … just take a pill …

– Last Updated: Mar-05-08 7:44 AM EST –

I do way too much palm down / pushing, fileing and sanding of stuff. Occupational and my elbow is aways 'there'. This summer I moved a bunch of heavy rocks and while I felt it coming. I thought "well I'm gonna' feel this tomorrow" but it will go away .. not ... instead lit the fuse and my inner elbow 'spot' got to the point that I had trouble washing my hair or lifting a drink ... paradoxically, I could still work . ....

Came across a suggestion on the surfski forum for Vitamin B-6 ...and thought, "well I don't eat right anyway so what can it hurt ?" ....

Started taking 50mg a day and felt something but not much ... upped it to 150 and within three days i felt like my elbow have been injected with some kind of super lube ... nagging pain was still there but just not as noticeable ...

I knew I should but it didn't hurt enough to make me do it so I did NOT slow down or modify my work habits that have had me living with this thing for years now in any way ...just kept going ...

Fast forward about 30 days now and off the B-6 for a couple weeks .... NO pain whatsoever .. it just went away .. I can still feel it there if I touch it but for the first time in years I do not have the constant buzz going on @ my inner elbow corner ....

Synapsized .. get the small bottle of B-6 and run through the whole thing ... happens slow over a few weeks but I think you would be amazed ...

After ten years of paddling over 1000 miles a year I have four suggestions:

  1. Don’t paddle feathered.
  2. Greenland paddles are much easier on your body and work very well. Aleut paddles are also very good.
  3. Relax your grip on the paddle. You don’t need to grip the paddle on the hand that is in the pushing position, and only grip the paddle the minimum amount that is necessary. Aleut paddles are the easiest to hold with a relaxed grip, because their offset blades naturally stay orientated correctly when you’re paddling.
  4. Periodically stop paddling for a few minutes to give your hands and wrists a break, and gently massage and stretch them.

As stated above
Try the GP when the joints flare up.

stop having a 'control arm’
the control arm changes with each stroke and each side. You should have two control arms that are used about 50% of the time each.

Rather than going unfeathered, grab a broom handle and paddle in your kayak with your best form. Notice that you probably don’t pay attention to what arm is controlling anything. Then stick some old blades on the broom handle and adjust them until you have a clean catch and release on both sides. Math up the blade angle against a paddle and you have your ‘ideal’ setting. This setting will probably change with time. Or, skip the broom handle and experiment with the best angle that works for you.

At last a voice of reason
My conclusion after a lot of observation and anaylisis is that going GP, unfeathered and probably even bent shaft is a symptomatic cure at best.

Trying to control a paddle blade five or six feet creates a lot of extra stress on muscles and joints in the control hand. And why? because someone told you that you had a control hand and a non control hand.

If any controling is being done it should be done with the hand nearest the water (single blade/canoe may be an exception) idealy once the paddle is set and pressure is on the working face, control should be possible with very little grip.

Control hand
If that means assigning a universal “control hand” on one side or another, it’s been a while since I have encountered anyone who taught that. I think I hit it from one coach in a WW class in the last year, but that was probably the first time I’d heard it in forever. I’ve mostly heard the idea that the control hand is whichever is closest to the water at a point in the stroke.

As to feather, that’s also been moving. You can pick up very nice old fixed 60 and 75 degree paddles dirt cheap.

A number of years ago…
…I paddled a heavily loaded double on a mulitiday trip in cold, rough conditions. The rough conditions caused me (a bit more of a novice than I am now) to grip my paddleshaft too hard in the rough conditions. I had a paddle blade that most would consider quite large. My latex wrist gastkets (Kokatat XL dry top) were too tight and restricting. I’m sure my paddling form (among other things) had my wrists flexing (moving) way too much. On the 3rd day of the trip I got De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis ( http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/de-quervains-tenosynovitis/DS00692 ), a painful inflammation of the ‘sheath’ that the wrist tendons go through–somewhat similar to tendonitis, except this is the one where you can feel your wrist ‘racheting’ through it’s range of motion. Interestingly enough, all the above conditions I was paddling in and paddle being used and restrticting gastkets, loaded boat, gripping too hard, cold, rough, moving the wrist too much, etc.—all of these are contributory to coming down with this. Unknowinly, I’d, paddled into the ‘perfect storm’ for coming down with De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. This was on my right wrist, non-control wrist.

Perhaps you are starting to have the same thing in your wrist. Tendonitis and this often get confused.

My wife is a PT (edu. at Mayo–see above link) and suggested I see an OT (tend to specialize more in the arms) at here clinic after my doc gave me a shot of cortisone and put me in a cast. I was too stupid to let it rest after this and went about my normal activities and lo and behold it flared up again! The OT (this is sometime after the initial injury because I was too stubborn to go get it looked at) did a bunch of different therapies–something that kinda pushed steroids through the skin into the area, something where they did a ‘deep’ massage that was quite painful, etc. It didn’t seem to me that there was any real lasting affect. I was forced to paddle with a custom brace from my OT that didn’t let me wrist flex at all–fine if all you’re doing is forward paddling.

One thing I thought might fix it was a bent shaft, so I ordered a Lendal. I talked to Scott Lynch (?) US rep at the time, about this and he said that most of the time he sees this it’s becuase folks are flexing wrists–bad form. I started to really work on this and started having much less issue and could paddled comfortably without the brace. A while later, I started doing an exercise where you tie a weight to a rope one end and a closet dowel on the other, hold your arms straight out in front of you parallell to the ground and start rolling up the rope and weight onto the stick. Just a little at a time increase over months to prevent injury. I found out in quick order that my dorsal (topside) wrist muscles where very weak, as they are on most folks. And yet, these muscles get used quite a bit kayaking. Over the course a few months, the strength and endurance of this area increased greatly.

Since this time and my technique improvements, I’ve had no trouble. The brace still goes with me on long trips, but I haven’t had to use it. My OT said that with the severity of injury I had, I might be living with this issue the rest of my life, but for the last 3 years or so I’ve been complaint free. That area will probably always be sensitive to reinjury, so I’ll have to watch it carefully.

Hope this long boring story may shed some light. I think with connective tissue issues you have to be very careful and patient. There’s not much blood supply in these areas to speed healing and an injury can take longer than a bone to heal. Patience—good luck.

loose the feather
The heck with feathered paddles. Too much wrist turning. It will only agravate your condition. The only reason for feathered is paddling in winds or gaining that extra .02 miles per hour while racing.

You should not be racing or paddling in conditions that require extra effort. Therefore, no need for feathered paddle or constant wrist twisting. Just a thought you might consider.

tendonitus also
I am making another appt with a dif.doctor to get some other ideas as my tendonitus wont leave me on either elbow now. It is bad now and I havent paddled since fall that isn’t the culprit. Gardening a few years ago started it all! I use tension braces on my forearms when I paddle which helps for that time and I switched to a gp and love it immensely, so much less stress moving it thru the water which makes it easier on your arms and you really dont sacrifice speed (at least i dont). Not a cure obviously but some help so that paddling can continue.

All Tendonitis Is Not Created Equal
Tendonoitis is an overuse condition, and often the symptom of an underlying biomechanical imbalance. Treat the symptom; pain goes away; do not resolve biomechanical imbalance; pain comes back; unhappy paddler.

Biomechanical imbalances can be caused by interaction of internal factors: aging of muscoloskeletal system, prior injuries, muscle imbalances, and anatomic anomolies.

Biomechanical imbalances can be caused by interaction of external factors: paddling technique, paddle design and materials from which paddle is made, and training schedule.

To reslove the immediate situation, rest, meds, ice, splints, and adjusting your training schedule can all help. But to resolve the underlying condition/conditions that caused the tendonitis can prove to be a complex puzzle.

I got into big time tendonitis problems when I purchased a carbon fiber paddle and signiifcantly upped my paddling distance - all before I had acquired proper padding technique.

My tendonitis has resolved with my use of a small bladded, fiberglass paddle with plently of shaft flex; use of a low angle style of paddling and low (30 degree)of feather; use of splints at night; rest and stretch during paddles; and gradually increasing mileage during paddling season.

Your physician’s referral for occupational therapy or physical therapy treatment could prove helpful as the occupational or physical therapist will evaluate you, and based upon the findings, give you specific and individualized reccommendations to help you manage your tendonotis.

Good luck.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am over 60 years old and a practicing physical therapist.

Hey Mike!
When I read the first half of your post, I thought, “This guy has to be a PT.” I’m totally surprised, however, that you use a feathered paddle.

I was(am) a PT as well. I only did it for 5 years, not counting school/internships. In 2000, I left the PT/corporate world (I used to work for HellSouth) and became a Fireman. Man, I don’t regret it one bit! I still keep my license active, but I have no plans to work as a PT again.

Pedro Almeida

I’ll just add my thumbs up for the Greenland Paddle.

I strongly suggest…
that you go unfeathered. Twisting that shaft back and forth is a recipe for overuse injury - especially if you’re already prone to tendonitis. I’ve posted about this subject before:



Another thing I’ve observed is that many paddlers who’ve had problems/injuries with euro paddles find relief when they go to a GP. The question I have is whether it has to do with blades shape, or the lack of feathering. If I had the time and resources, I’d do a study on the effects of paddling with feathered/unfeathered/Greenland paddles. I think the results would be interesting.

As time goes on, feather angles keep decreasing…I wonder why.

Good luck,

Pedro Almeida