Georgiy Sekretaryuk
June 11, 2018
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Physical Therapy for Kayakers – Know Before You Paddle

physical-therapy-for-kayakers

Summer is here and one of the favorite pastimes in the waterway rich region of Greater Vancouver BC is kayaking. Within convenient distance of our own Burnaby physiotherapy clinic we have some great places to head on out with a paddle, including Burnaby Lake and Deer Lake, which is why we have our fair share of clients come in to inquire about improving their own performance out there on the water. Today, we’re here with some intel as to why physical therapy and kayaking go hand in hand.

4 Reasons Why You Should Make Physiotherapy a Part of Your Kayaking Program

1. Giving You the Shoulder Strength You Need

The shoulders are the primary muscle group called upon to work overtime when you kayak. Without proper strength and range of motion, the muscular force required to push the paddle through the water (especially when working against a current) may cause an injury, such as a strain or sprain, which can have you and keep you out of the water for an entire season. In addition, if you have a precasting condition, such as cold shoulder, rotator cuff injury, or chronic shoulder pain, your kayaking days are already numbered without adequate attention from a physical therapist. A physical therapist can work to both rehabilitate any preexisting conditions and prescribe a regime of exercises that will improve shoulder strength and overall range of motion so that you can go the extra mile on future kayaking expeditions.

2. Improving Function of the Other Working Parts 

The elbows, forearms, and wrists are also put to task when kayaking. Over time, the repetitive motion of moving the paddle can lead to overuse injuries in these regions. Sound familiar? Yes, you can get tennis elbow from kayaking, and the very same physiotherapy treatments for tennis elbow rehab and prevention apply to you. These involve in-clinic sessions that include (but are not exclusive to) manual therapy and modalities, in addition to a prescription of home exercise programs that focus specifically on eccentric exercise of the wrist extensors. Learn more about what physiotherapy can do to help alleviate tennis elbow, or should we say kayaking elbow.

The lower back is also of concern, with a recent survey indicating that it is the third most reported kayaking injury. In this case, a physical therapy clinic offering lower back pain chiropractic services can deliver a highly effective solution to all that ails the lower part of the torso.

3. Overdeveloped “Kayaking” Muscles Lead to Imbalance and Injury Elsewhere

Many of the injuries that occur as a result of kayaking are due to overdeveloped muscles which can put a strain on other parts of our body.

For kayakers, this occurs more in the shoulders than anywhere else. These injuries arise when the larger muscle groups, which are known as “the movers”, overpower the smaller ones, which are the stabilizers and the rotator cuff (addressed in ten #1 above). This can lead to shoulder dysfunction, so it is important to strengthen and work the stabilizers and rotator cuff muscles to mitigate the risk that comes with excessive movement of “the mover”. Sure, many of you may take note and hit the gym to pump out a few sets of shoulder exercises, but do you know which ones will target your rotator cuff, interscapular muscles, and the specific stabilizers you need to reach? A physical therapists does. Remember, going at it alone can increase the risk, especially if you currently perform heavy weight training without complementing it with light resistance exercise for the stabilizing muscles.

4. Providing a Program that Concentrates on Core Fitness

Kayaking taxes your abdomen and core unlike another other exercise. Your core needs to be extremely strong not just to maximize your potential for paddling, but to prevent injury, especially in the lower back and abdomen.

Correct posture is everything when out on the water. Sit with your shoulders over your hips, yet with a very subtle forward tilt, with your knees slightly bent and your heels in, as so:

Physical Therapy for Kayakers

image: kayak-univers.com

You may be tempted to sit more lax when in a sit-on-top kayak (versus a traditional sit-in variety) but it is essential that you stay mindful through each paddle and stroke so that you don’t break posture. Some of you will have difficulty in following this required position for a long period of time, which is indicative of poor core strength. If so, work with a physiotherapy clinic that offers a core fitness program. Failure to do so can lead to failure to launch from your local boat slip, dock, ramp or sandy beach.


If you’re a kayaker and you reside in the Greater Vancouver area, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Absolute PhysioCare today.

 

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