wrist problems

I am having wrist problems (probably tendonitis) after a long sea kayak trip, but can’t find any advice in the archives. Has anyone else had wrist problems?

OK, OK, problems are probably due to poor technique (gripping paddle too tightly, too much extension in the wrist) but any advice from out there would be welcome.

What I really need to know is, how long does this take to heal? It’s been 2 months resting now, with no kayaking and it does not hurt so bad, but is not better either. Sometimes it seems that there is maybe something mis-aligned in the wrist (sharp pain and cracking sometimes happens). Can anyone help with this?


time to get it checked out
First, it’s time for some medical care. classic treatment is ice at first, rest, anti inflammatories (ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen- not tylenol) then heat. It’s been two months and should have been better with rest, time to go to the next level and check it out. You can start with your primary care doc, other options would be sports med, hand surgery or ortho.

you also need to have a paddling professional look at your paddle and stroke- my wife developed tendonitis kayaking due to paddle blades that were offset or perpendicular, requiring her to rotate her wrists every stroke. with parallel blades she was fine. What is your paddle length,blade setup, etc.? Does it make you do something that puts more stress or rotation on your wrist? I have found a slightly shorter canoe paddle stresses my shoulders a little less and I can not perceive a difference in my power or stroke. You need someone who knows something to look things over, both medically and sport wise.

Sounds like a…
trip to the orthopedist for a consultation…

When you return to paddling…if you don’t already use one, you might want to consider a greenland paddle. I have ‘joint issues’ and the GP REALLY is kinder to my aging joints…

Best of luck…I know it’s a real bummer when the joints act up…


Not a doc, get one

– Last Updated: Nov-23-04 9:34 AM EST –

Only a wilderness first responder, not a doc! But I do know that
the wrist is a complex joint and a common site for injury in virtually every type of recreational activity.

"Abnormal sounds or sensations associated with wrist motion "grinding," "snaps," "clicks," or "clunks." Typically, grinding represents synovitis, while clunking and clicks signal carpal instability. A snap usually represents a subluxing tendon or plica." Definitive evaluation will rule in and rule out exactly what is going on for you.

Get a doc who specializes in sport medicine, that way they value getting you active and know you want the fastest and best result one that gets you on the water!

Once you know what you really have, you are in a position to learn what caused it and avoid it by altering your habits, stroke, paddle, alter your range of motion, change whether you use a feathered or unfeathered paddle, etc.

About 90% of wrist injuries in paddling come from extending the wrist to its limit at both ends of the stroke. This causes a great deal of pressure on the joint and surrounding structures, in some way like deep knee bends place huge forces on it, how the shoulder gets hurt by placing it above and behind you, etc.

Once you learn these things, you can be injury free, no pain a lot of gain. I got much of my knowledge about changing my own self after a massive leg and ankle injury, it forced me to begin to learn about myself, and I took it upon myself to discover what I did to bring it about. Looking back one the the best things to happen to me strangely enough.

If you like to take an active role in learning about your condition, here is a beginning web site that may help.


Similar Experience
I had the same problem when I first got into kayaking in May of this year. An instructor said I was gripping the paddle too tight. I loosened my grip, took some anti-inflammatories and wore a carpal tunnel type brace for a few weeks and the problem resolved itself.

I agree with the other posters. Given the amount of time you’ve had the problem, I’d see a doctor. Either a specialist in sports medicine or an orthopedist.

I use a 45 degree angle most of the time, but think the problem was when I switched to 75 degree angle to cope with higher winds. Also am aware now that I was gripping to tightly (I also have stiffness in my fingers still). How long did it take for your wife to get better?

Try this
Check out with your friends about their favorite chiropracter. Try a few treatments on your wrist. Also, try lifting your elbow first in the kayak paddling motion as per Brent’s Chicken wing technique. I wear a home made wrist brace based on a bowling ball wrist brace with aluminum inserts to keep my wrist straight. I also consciously lift my elbow slightly first as the stroke recovers in the Chicken Wing thing. I use 75° feather and all these tricks keep me going. Try the chiro, drugs, and technique change before surgery. To a carpenter, everything is a nail, to a surgeon, everything requires surgery. Hard to reverse something they do wrong, though with good intentions.

I’d See A Pro
But my attitude toward tendonitis has always been “use it”. Nice easy warm up and ibuprofen and “use it”. Sometimes ice afterward… and more ibuprofen. Works for me.

Not biased toward trad medicine
MHO I am very cautious about being passive in the process of how to deal with medical things. I research things I find a respectful doc who is sports oriented, I get second opinions if any doubts, I believe in being skeptical before proceeding especially with medications and surgery solutions.

That said, alternative therapies, taking pain killers and keeping using something sometimes is the way to go, I agree, yet the idea of hey, it can’t hurt to try it is sometimes very not true.

For me, when something does not go away, I listen to my body and get to the root of it. I have seen too many of my buddies ignore stuff until they made it into a darned permanent conditon. Scared me enough to learn from it.

You might have a really minor something here, or NOT. You might want to err on the side of safety, and get it DX well. You can always ignore the proposed solution. As we say here often, whatever works for you.

Easy fix!
Just switsh from an unnatural motion, kayak paddling, to a natural one, canoe paddling.

Been there. Done it.

Anything else?

Happy Paddl’n!



takes several months to heal completely.

I swithched to a 7 ounce ZRE single blade paddle years ago. More effiencient and no more tendonitisis problems.


try both
The tiny new style graphite canoe paddles are excellent and fast. It could be good crosstraining to do both and stay in shape. I love watching the grasse river canoe people paddle. The newmans really move with a tiny low impact paddle.

If one sided stroking feels more natural
I suggest you work on finding some companionship!