There’s lots of ways to enjoy paddling on Vancouver’s endless lakes, rivers and oceans whether you prefer stand up paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, surf ski, rowing and/or dragon boating.

Overuse injuries are quite common in paddling sports due to the nature of the activity, which requires the same stroke or paddling motion over and over again. Over the course of a race or a training session, you may be performing up to hundreds or thousands of strokes at a time.

Minor problems such as muscle or joint tightness, stiffness or weakness can add up even in a single training session resulting in a much bigger issue with the repeated stroke action. This may also cause compensatory movements at other joint and muscle locations. For example, if your upper back is stiff and not allowing you to rotate sufficiently at the beginning of the stroke, the shoulder or lower back may compensate by providing the extra rotation needed. Over a few strokes, it is unlikely to cause an issue but over time this could turn into a minor ache or tightness which if not addressed early could turn into a more significant overuse injury resulting in more time off the water.

The most common injury sites that physios see with paddling sports include:

  • Shoulders
  • Upper Back
  • Lower Back
  • Ribs
  • Wrist/Forearms

Risk factors for paddling injuries include:

  • Inexperience
  • Incorrect technique i.e. gripping the paddle too hard, incorrect hand placement, insufficient use of the legs and/or too much emphasis on the arms during the pulling phase of the stroke.
  • Over-training
  • Weak core
  • Poor posture
  • Asymmetry from left to right in terms of back rotation or arm/leg strength and flexibility

What can you do if you end up with an injury from a paddling sport?

It is a good idea to book an appointment to see a physio if your ache/tightness is not getting better after a couple of days…before it turns into a bigger problem.

Your physio will:

  • Assess the site of injury
  • Assess the available movement and strength at the affected areas
  • Have a look at your technique and give you pointers on how to correct any errors
  • Manual therapy to relax overactive muscles
  • Set up a strength/stretching program where appropriate
  • Teach you a core strength program to improve your overall posture and stability

Paddling sports provide a great overall body work out without the impact loading and jarring that you get with running and most land based sports.

  • Review of completed forms
  • Assessment of strength, muscle imbalances, joint movement, alignment
  • Prescription of individualized exercises as necessary based on assessment
  • Review of Phase One exercises and offer modifications as required

Call Dunbar Physio at 604-266-3303 to book your appointment with Vancouver physiotherapist Peter Curtain. He will be able to answer any questions you may have about paddling or help you if you are suffering from a paddling injury. You can also conveniently book online HERE.