Shoulder Pain After Kayaking: Why and How to Prevent It

Did you just have a great day in paddling but suddenly felt shoulder pain? While body pain is normal after a day out paddling for hours, sometimes it can get too painful. Why does this happen and what can you do to prevent it?

Read on as we talk about shoulder pain after kayaking.

shoulder pain after kayaking

Shoulder Pain After Kayaking

Shoulder pain and injuries are one of the most common when kayaking. The shoulders take a beating as we go kayaking, with the average beginner kayaker traveling around 3 mph and 1,000 strokes every mile.

That’s why it’s normal to experience some muscle soreness, especially around the upper body, namely the upper back, arms, and our shoulders. However, the pain may get too intense to the point it’s actually an injury.

What’s the difference?

Mild shoulder injuries would feel very painful at the start, while muscle soreness would feel similar to if you just hit the weights. This kind of pain would respond well to pain relievers and will clear up after a few days.

Shoulder injuries will show more redness and swelling in the affected area, along with limited movement. Some people can’t move their shoulders without experiencing severe pain. Severe tears may generate a popping or snapping sound.

If that’s the case, it’s best to head to a doctor to have it diagnosed and treated before it worsens.

If you’re wondering whether or not you should kayak even with a shoulder injury, it’s best to consult a doctor first. You may need to recover and perform therapeutic exercises for a few days or weeks. If you do get the go signal and can kayak, it’s best to go slow and steady, being aware of your body and any pain you may experience.

Types of Shoulder Injuries from Kayaking

Your rotator cuff, the part of the shoulder, is likely to be injured as you paddle. Rotator cuff injuries are usually graded from 1-3, depending on the level of damage.

A Grade 1 rotator cuff injury would involve microscopic tearing or stretching your muscles and tendon fibers. Grade 3 stains would involve over 90% of tendon fibers being torn.

Mild injuries would be treated with non-surgical methods like rest and applying ice. Steroids or anti-inflammatory medications can ease the pain and swelling. More severe injuries may need surgery to fix the torn fibers.

There are also other common shoulder injuries related to kayaking, such as:

  • Shoulder dislocations
  • Shoulder impingements (the humerus sits up and forward in your socket, irritating all structures of the shoulder)
  • Bursitis (inflammation of the bursa)
  • Tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon)
  • Strain or strain on the shoulder ligaments, labrum, or rotator cuff

Preventing Shoulder Pain While Kayaking

Of course, you wouldn’t want to end up with a bad shoulder injury, whether it lasts for a few days or weeks. It doesn’t only keep you away from the kayak, but it’s pretty painful!

To help prevent shoulder injuries from happening, here are a few tips to follow:

1. Proper technique

A common cause of shoulder pain and injury after kayaking is poor paddling technique. Prevent accidental injuries by taking time to practice and learn stroke techniques that work for you.

If you’re a beginner, you’ll most likely learn to do the paddler’s box, which involves picturing lines running from where the hands rest on paddles in front of the body, up to the shoulders. You need to stay within that box and not let the hands extend beyond the lines your shoulders create.

Move your arms up and down within the box but never go beyond the range. If you’ll have to paddle behind you, you need to turn your torso so the arms never go behind the shoulders.

Besides the stroke technique, you also have to learn how to brace and get back on your kayak after you capsize or roll your boat. You’ll also need to keep the position in the paddler’s box. Opt for low braces rather than high ones, with your hands below the elbow.

Also, be careful as you load and unload the kayak. Your equipment may be a bit heavy and hurt your shoulders and other parts of the body. When transporting your kayak, be careful as you do so and ask for help when needed. Also, lift with your legs and not the back!

2. Stretch your shoulders

Stretching will help keep your muscles and ligaments flexible.

You should do dynamic stretches before kayaking to loosen up the joints, such as shoulder rolls. These stretches involve moving.

After kayaking, do static stretches, which involve holding a certain position for 30 seconds to a few minutes at a time. This will help increase your range of motion and cool down the muscles, so it lessens the after-burn.

Spend about 5-10 minutes stretching your arms, shoulders, and upper back, both before and after you go kayaking.

3. Perform strengthening exercises

Strong muscles will help keep your shoulder joints stable. It also helps reduce the effort you need to put as you paddle the kayak. Work the upper body muscles with exercises like pull-ups and pushups. You can also use resistance bands for upper body workouts, which improve overall muscle strength.

Besides the arms, work on your core, too. This is helpful in paddling! Go for exercises like crunches, planks, and mountain climbers.

Wrapping It Up

Nobody likes shoulder pain, much fewer injuries. By learning all about the shoulder pain that happens after kayaking and the common injuries, you’ll be able to prepare ahead and prevent it from happening. But if you do experience muscle soreness, don’t worry, as this is normal and goes away after a few days.

Hopefully, you learned a lot about shoulder pain after kayaking. Keep yourself aware of any injuries or accidents that can come with kayaking to stay safe as you exercise. Good luck and take care!

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