Whitewater Kayaking with the bad lumbar

Hello, guys!

I’m 22 years old. I want to start whitewater kayaking activity. My level is 0.

I have herniated lumbar spine disk and thorasic osteohondrosis (results of 1 year ago MRI), but in last 1,5 years i did much to improve my condition (swimming, physiotherapy etc.).

In contrast to 1,5 years ago condition, now I feel much better, and there is no pain practically.

Is it possible to start whitewater kayaking doing compliance with safety regulations in order to do not worser to my lumbar spine in particular, and to my back in general?

May be there is the complex of exercises which could help make stronger my lumbar spine in order to kayak?

Thanks in advance.

Same thing for my daughter
At 36 she got the herniated disk and had surgery for it. Doctors say no activity that resembles shoveling or vacuuming. I can’t speak for your specific back. That whole motion is a no no for my daughter. She can paddle a canoe straight on, she can plant a paddle off the bow to help negotiate turns into an eddie but any pivoting motion she can feel grinding on her spine. She can not do a draw stroke, yet she is very active off the water, running cycling etc. I told her to skip kayaking and solo canoeing as well. Be a front paddler in a tandem canoe which she can do by turning her whole body . No I think at least in her case that kayaking actually could be dangerous, either a disastrous ending health wise or not be able to get herself out of a bad situation on the water when her back blew or spazed up, not white water for sure… Too bad because her son and fiancee both kayak. If her fiancee thinks about this he should consider a nice tamdem canoe for them. I’ve paddled with her and just take over from the stern if she can’t handle a certain stoke. We work around her back. In any solo boat, well you are solo man !

no way to tell
I know of a few whitewater kayakers who had to go to an open boat because of back problems. Others are able to tolerate it.

I would suggest you find a meetup group or paddling club in your area and show up for some group paddles. Try sitting in and hopefully paddling some different boats in calm conditions before you make any investment. If the first boat you try is uncomfortable, try some others before giving up. Concentrate on maintaining good upright posture in the boat.

Hopefully you are already familiar with some physical therapy exercises and stretches for you condition. I would suggest stretching well before getting in the boat.

I have a form of arthritis
Anlylosing spondylitis, that over time may cause my lower spine to fuse together. I have been kayaking regularly (2-3 times a week) for 20+ years and it has kept my arthritis at bay.

I did consult my physician and was advised that only moderate kayaking was advisable, but over time he feels that the core exercise and rotation has only helped my condition.

I started out on calm rivers, but now run WW and do rock gardening only limited by my skill level and water safety considerations.

In my own opinion my arthritis caused me to develop some bad paddling form habits that caused shoulder and elbow stress related pain issues, but some paddling classes and practice helped overcome these issues.

There are many paddlers on the water with disabilities that can be overcome with adaptive paddling skills.

Again, in my own opinion, everybody has issues that effect limitations, overcoming them is a matter of personal adoption and choice.

WW stresses and twists the lower back

– Last Updated: Aug-03-14 10:22 AM EST –

WW kayaking especially puts a lot of stress and twisting on the lower back. Based on my own experience with a herniated disk and chronic back issues (schoermann and adult kyphosis) which exacerbate any undue stress, you should *avoid* ANY form of vigorous kayaking until you recover to a point where your back does not mind and feels better after kayaking. If you go kayak too hard before you are ready you will most likely re-injure and lengthen the recovery process, or worse.

Easy flat water is better, but I could still feel a negative effect on my back issues from it, while I was injured. I had to stop paddling completely until the pain from the herniated disk was almost entirely gone.

Took me a couple of months to recover at double your age. But everyone is different. Unfortunately, takes many years to begin to understand one's injuries and what is good for them and what is bad - doctors are not always right, but for a herniated disk I'm afraid kayaking is not a good exercise - it compresses and twists at the same time, especially when done with poor form or under hard paddling conditions. Compression and twisting are about the worst you could subject your lower back to when injured...

The exercises that helped me were such that they allowed to strengthen the back without causing much twist and bending. And avoiding compressing the disks while doing so. Hard to explain, but counter the compressive motion that comes with muscle contraction with motion that works in the opposite direction - for instance, if you bend forward or back, do it with your upper body hanging down and stretching the spine, not horizontal or upright and compressing it. Combined the strengthening exercises with gentle stretching exercises that did cause twist and bending but without compression again. In fact, when I was in most pain, I did some exercises that were meant to counter the bulge in the disk, that felt like I was "pushing it back in shape". That hurt, but in a way that I could feel was helpful - those exercises I think helped the most with the pain relief.

Hanging down from a high-bar (to "undo" compression) was I thought helpful too, but initially, when I still had the fresh injury, I noticed it was easy to overdo. Also, I know I can hang so relaxed that I can misalign my spine and if I step on the floor abruptly, pinch something badly and would need to hang in s relaxed way again, realign my spine, then step down gently to undo it. So the same exercise done right can help or hurt if not done right...

Most importantly though, sounds easy but hard to do, was to learn a good posture that does not stress the disks in the lower back. Avoid motions that would compress them too much (not just lifting heavy stuff, also bend properly, sit properly, walk properly, lie properly...). that sped-up the recovery I thought, because minimized undue stress during motions I do all the time.