In several posts I have mentioned back pain. And occasionally a friend asks me some questions about what is/was the cause, why, and how. This has got me thinking that I should add this tab to help friends find information that may help them enjoy a pain free day on the water. I hope you find some of this information helpful. – Jeff
NOTE: I offer this information here as a service. I am not a medical doctor. You should investigate, speak with your doctor, and determine on your own if this information best fits you medical problem.
I am recovering from a slight bulging disk. I say recovering because once a disk is injured it probably will always be. In the Spring of 2008 I thought a bolt of lighting entered my back zipped down into my left testicle exploding it, then wrapped around my left gluteus maximus, and pierced through my left knee. I was doing some stupid things on land, then I went out for a paddle. The disk hit the nerve when I was in my kayak. (My doctor told me that the disk was just counting down and could have went putting away laundry)
Thankfully I was paddling with some friends. And they knew how to help me. The tow into land seemed to take forever. After we got to the beach my friends lifted me out of my kayak. (Unfortunately their hands slipped because of the rain and I fell into the water.)
So, I listened to the advice of my doctor, physical therapist, and chiropractor.
Doctor said for the first month do nothing but rest, take the prescribed medication, and wear a back brace. Only bend at the knees. No lifting of anything. And have some light massage.
Physical therapist said to slowly wean off of the back brace after the first month and strengthen the back by laying on the stomach tighten the abbs and slowly lift alternating arm and leg. Also lay on back tighten the abbs and slowly lift alternating arm and leg. Then progressively increase the difficulty under the guidance of a therapist / personal trainer (for the rest of your life)
Chiropractor said stay away from all chiropractic work for at least six months. Continue with the exercises for the rest of your life. And add tai chi or yoga to my exercise maintenance. Always bend at the knees. And only use the back brace if your “honey do” list requires moving stuff. (for the rest of your life)
In essence it has taken me two years to say that “I am pain free” because I am doing what I am told. The first 20 months were the hardest. I have also noticed that when I slack off for a few days stiffness returns.
Stiffness is a warning sign that my disk is not receiving oxygen and nutrition from the blood stream, exercise is the best way to get oxygen and nutrients to the jelly center of the disc for good back health.
slaying the water demon Blog link UPDATE:
Below is a link that has helped me
Sean and I both have suffered from lower back pain. Some people have theorized that the pain comes from kayaking. Our pain was due to doing stupid things on dry land…And we now practice what we preach when it comes to back health.
Kayaking can improve a person’s core muscles and flexibility. The more we warm up, stretch, exercise, and paddle (with a safe degree of rotation) the less we experience back pain associated to disks putting pressure on nerves.
Occasional I have a student in one of my classes talking about their back pain. Before I see them on the water I ask them to consult with their doctor about their pain. And then I request that the student brings me a letter from their doctor informing me that it is safe for them to be on the water. Then after an evaluation of their technique, and looking inside of their cockpit, the plausible reasons for the pain turn out to be…
- arm paddling
- no rotation
- strangling the paddle shaft
- no padding within the cockpit
- too much padding within the cockpit
Too much padding and high seat backs do temporarily mask back pain. Unfortunately, this type of outfitting can lead to the weakening of abdominal and low back muscles. It works similar to a doctor prescribed corset used to stabilize the back after an injury or surgery.
I wore such a corset to help mend a bulging disk.
When a corset is used, the patients have to wean themselves off it through therapy because the muscles have lost their strength and flexibility. It is these muscles that support our spine and keeps or disks in a healthy position.
The best solution to surviving or preventing back pain is practicing proper techniques. Seek out qualified ACA instructors or BCU coaches who will help you develop a fitness-paddling plan. Hopefully the instructor / coach will also have a background in physical therapy. Do not fall into the retail trap of fancy paddling gadgets. Most gadgets promise to minimize pain without focusing on improving core muscles and flexibility.
PS. Qualified ACA instructors or BCU coaches should be able to show you their membership card. If they act oddly when asked, they maybe claiming to be certified to increase their chances of making money.
PS2 – If you are experiencing leg numbness tell you doctor. This could be a sign of a pinched nerve. Consult your doctor immediately.