Revisiting the Issue of Pain When Kayaking

by Sherri ~ September 10th, 2013. Filed under: Injuries.

I  just had a lesson with a student who bought his boat from another paddler who was getting out of the sport due to pain and numbness of the legs and butt.  While my student benefitted by getting a killer deal on a fiberglass kayak, paddle, and accessories, I feel badly for the paddler who can no longer enjoy the sport of kayaking due to suffering extreme discomfort after a short time in his kayak.  Unfortunately, this is an all too common complaint.  Back in September 2009, I wrote a blog post about possible causes and solutions for lower body pain when kayaking.  I just received a comment on that post from a physiotherapist in the UK directing me to read two of his recent blog posts on the same subject.  These are both very good articles specifically dealing with the issue of posture, tight hamstrings, and pressure on the sciatic nerve from the perspective of a physical therapist who is also a kayaker. I have linked the two posts along with my original blog post, and I encourage anyone who is experiencing pain or numbness in the legs, butt, or lower back to take the time to read these articles.  Don’t be too quick to give up an activity that you love.  Perhaps the discomfort you are feeling may be the motivation you need to address some underlying deficits in strength, flexibility, and technique.

“When Kayaking Becomes a Pain in the Butt” by Sherri Mertz, September 17, 2009

“Painful numb legs when kayaking” by Eoin O. Conaire, April 22, 2013

“Painful numb legs when kayaking 2 – exercises” by Eoin O. Conaire, July 24, 2013


Happy paddling!


2 Responses to Revisiting the Issue of Pain When Kayaking

  1. Ray Erspamer

    I can relate this this issue. The kayak SEAT is a huge factor here. When I purchased my Current Designs Gulfstream it came with a Back Band….it was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever experienced. I called Current Designs and ordered a complete Dimension Seat Kit. They said it wouldn’t fit in the Gulfstream, but I got it to work and it was quite easy. The Dimension has an adjustable seat back, both up and down and front to back. Once I got it adjusted correctly the sore back, butt and leg issues disappeared. My wife and I were out on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage several weeks ago and paddled for 6 hours. We did stop a few time to get out and take a break, but my back was fine. In my first Kayak, a Wilderness Sealutions, the seat was bad, within minutes my legs were numb. I would recommend to start with the seat and go from there.

  2. Sherri

    I would have to agree with the suggestion to start with the seat. The cause of pain in the butt and legs is usually related to irritation of the sciatic nerve. In order to avoid this problem, you need to be sitting with good posture. In a perfect world, paddlers would all have excellent flexibility and muscle strength allowing them to sit with correct posture without any seat at all. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. So most paddlers need to find a seat that will help them to sit with good paddling posture. A good seat should allow you to relax your leg muscles while still keeping the knees bent and thighs in close proximity to thigh braces for bracing and rolling. Your cockpit should have a “close” fit, but not a “tight” fit that cuts off any circulation or creates pressure points. It is very seldom that you cannot totally remove the seat from a kayak and replace it with something completely different in order to solve a problem with pain or numbness when paddling. You will, however, want to do some experimentation and perhaps paddling other kayaks before making such a drastic step since it is always possible that your “fix” could actually make things worse. There really are very few people who truly have to give up paddling due to a physical problem that is causing them pain. In most cases, it will take some time, but solutions can be found in the design of your equipment as well as making some changes in your exercise routine.

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