Can You Go Kayaking with a Bad Back?

this article I’ll answer the question whether or not it’s a good idea to go kayaking with a bad back. I’ll also explain some benefits of kayaking for your back, some ways you can prevent a back injury while kayaking and some back pain treatments.

Many people wonder how long they can go before they start to feel the effects of back pain. As soon as you’re out on the water, it’s easy to push yourself to new heights. Kayaking is a popular outdoor sport for many people because of the health and relaxation benefits it provides. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself and be unable to continue enjoying your favourite pastime.

Can You Go Kayaking With a Bad Back?

Prior back injuries should always be checked by a doctor before embarking on a kayaking trip. A herniated disc, for example, can deteriorate further if you put too much pressure on the spine. If kayaking causes inflammation in your back, nerves in your back that are already compressed can be inflamed. It’s possible to go kayaking even with a sore or injured back as long as you take steps to avoid being hurt, as long as your back is not too severe.

The good news is that back problems are unlikely to occur as a result of kayaking. It’s possible to increase the strength and flexibility of your back by learning to paddle properly. After a long day on the water, the lower back might become aching and stiff. The vast majority of kayakers’ back pain is transient and may be alleviated with a little self-care. It makes all the difference in the world how you feel at the end of the day to pay attention to how your body is positioned during your travel.

When you’re kayaking, your back is built up of a complicated network of vertebrae, ligaments, and muscles. Inexperienced paddlers are more likely to suffer from minor back ailments, such as a strained muscle. This is why it’s crucial to learn how to handle rollovers in a safe manner. Pushing themselves too hard or getting into an accident in turbulent water can also lead to injuries in advanced kayakers. The vast majority of back injuries can be avoided, and doing everything you can to avoid overtaxing your spinal column can go a long way in ensuring your comfort. On every kayaking excursion, you’ll work most of the back muscles that are important to your mobility and stability.

Woman stretching her back

Is Kayaking Good for Your Back?

Chronic back pain might be alleviated by increasing the strength of your back muscles. When there is an imbalance in the spinal column, it is common for back discomfort to develop. Strengthening the back muscles provides the spine with a stabilising framework that aids in maintaining its proper alignment.

Making paddling look easy is a common goal for kayaking enthusiasts. Even seasoned paddlers can tell you that it takes a lot of effort to get your boat and body weight across the water. Dumbbell rows and other typical strength-training exercises have a lot in common with paddling. As you exert yourself against the water, you’ll feel the strain on your muscles. The more you paddle, the more lean muscle mass you create in your body, making it easier to accomplish flawless strokes.

How Do I Prevent Back Pain When Kayaking?

Paddling works your upper arms, shoulders, and back, but the bottom region of your back is more likely to be affected by kayaking pain. While sitting or standing, the lumbar region, or lower back, carries the bulk of your body’s weight. This area is known as the lower back. Many of the best back pain and injury prevention strategies focus on preserving this area.

To avoid back pain, kayaks are designed to keep your body in a stable position. To begin, you’ll want to experiment with a variety of kayaks to locate the one that best suits your needs. People with back pain prefer sit-in kayaks to sit-on-top kayaks because they provide better stability. These may be a little more difficult to get into, but they generally have features like padded seats and taller backs that provide more support.

Proper Technique

If you paddle with an incorrect technique, you run the risk of injuring your lower back and obliques from the excessive rotation of your torso. Stay in the paddler’s box (read more about it here) and use your core muscles to power the strokes. Look for any places of discomfort in your back or shoulders as you paddle. As a general rule, this indicates that you need to work on improving your approach.

Carrying Your Kayak Properly

Between 20 and 100 pounds, kayaks are available. If you’re worried about straining your back while paddling, it’s a no-brainer to go with a lighter kayak. If you hoist the kayak incorrectly, you can injure your back even if you aren’t actively paddling. As with any heavy thing, practise lifting your kayak using your legs instead of your back. Consider asking for assistance from your other kayakers when loading or unloading a big or large kayak. In order to prevent an accident while transporting your kayak, we recommend using a kayak cart and team hoisting your kayak onto the top of your vehicle.

Stretch your muscles

Pressure from sitting can cause your back to tighten in as little as 15 to 20 minutes. A long drive to most kayaking destinations can explain why your back may already be aching before getting out of the car to unpack your kayak. Increasing your back’s flexibility and increasing blood flow are two benefits of warming up your body. Make sure you have enough time to complete some simple back stretches before you leave.

A simple pre-trip exercise is to bend over and touch your toes, allowing your muscles to soften up. Also, trunk rotations are a terrific way to loosen up the muscles you’ll be using when paddling. Make sure to do a few paddler-specific stretches when you get back to your house. These aid in the prevention of post-kayaking aches and pains.

Consider Taking a New Position

The amount of time you spend in the kayak depends on the route you choose to take. It’s possible, however, that you’ll come across a few places to stop and rest. Often, river and lake kayaking allows you to get near enough to the shore to take a rest. Before you get back in the water, take a few steps around the area.

Taking a break allows your back to re-adjust. Even if you return to sitting properly, your spinal alignment should have changed enough to affect the places that get the most pressure. Long-distance sea kayaking and other activities may prevent you from getting out of your boat. Look for opportunities to rest your body in this situation. While paddling in calmer conditions, you can take a few hip movements and back bends to loosen out your tight back.

Treat Your Own Sore Muscles at Home

Sore muscles are common after a long or gruelling kayaking expedition. The urge to quit exercising your back muscles should be avoided at all costs. When you sit or lie down for an extended period of time at home, your muscles may get stiffer.

Instead, practise some light exercises at home, such as bridges and planks, to keep your back muscles from being frozen. Back pain can be relieved in whatever way you desire. Back discomfort can be relieved by tried-and-true techniques like ice, heat, and massage. Pain medications and anti-inflammatories can help if natural self-care measures don’t work for you.

Within a few days of returning from your trip, you should notice a decrease in back pain. If the problem persists, you should have it evaluated by a medical professional. When it comes to back issues, the sooner you address them, the better.

Every time you spend a long period of time kayaking, you’ll notice that my back begins to ache. It’s easy to enjoy the sport, but any discomfort will diminish the experience.  There is no straightforward answer to this question because it depends on the individual’s health. Changing your paddling position may alleviate some of the discomfort you feel after kayaking. As an alternative, if you have a medical history in your back, seek advice from your primary care physician or doctor.

Seat Adjustments

Adjust the backrest so that it provides adequate support for your lower back. The seat should not be forcing your torso forward, nor should you be leaning back in it. With your lower back and buttocks forming an angle of 90 degrees to each other, your chest should be slightly forward.

Adjust the foot pegs and the position of your legs.

Make sure your toes are in contact with the foot pegs. Your heels should be angled toward the middle of the kayak, with your toes pointing outward. Thigh braces should be pressed by your legs as they bend upward and outward.

Get comfortable sitting in the kayak.

Take note of the positions of the backrest and the foot pegs once everything is in place. In order to get used to the kayak, rock it from side to side and lean forward and backward, effectively stretching in the kayak.

Non-ergonomic or conventional paddling posture

Because this posture isn’t something we’re used to in our daily lives, you’ll feel out of place when you sit in most kayaks. The backrest and footrests were designed by kayak manufacturers to keep kayakers in a specific position and prevent their upper bodies from slipping backward or sliding forward. When you’re in this position, your lower back will be subjected to both horizontal and vertical stress.

While the footrests and backrests help kayakers maintain a steady paddling stance, they also restrict your range of motion. Paddling for an extended amount of time. The kayak’s footrests and your lumbar spine, which is “supported” by the backrest behind it, are continually being pushed by your legs. Pressures stem from this.


There isn’t a full-proof way to avoid this issue. It’s a fundamental principle that applies to nearly every endeavour. Stretching before you go kayaking is another way to keep your body moving throughout the day. The value of stretching is well-known, yet in the kayaking community, it is sometimes overlooked or ignored altogether.

Stretching before and after kayaking is necessary, especially if you want to kayak for a lengthy period of time or cover a large distance. Stretching is an important part of your workout and will help you feel better in the long run.

Back Pain Treatments on the Water with Kayaks

Taking early action if you experience any discomfort while kayaking can help you avoid more serious or long-term harm to your lower back. If the pain persists despite stretching your body, consult your physician. No more self-healing movement is recommended by me because it could make matters worse.


As a medical specialty, chiropractic care focuses on the spine and associated joints. They are trained to use manual spinal manipulation to treat back pain. An adjustment to the spine, also known as a spinal manipulation, is a technique for relieving inflammation and excruciating pain in the spine’s joints when they are slightly misaligned.

In some cases, a single spinal adjustment can significantly alleviate your lower back pain, but it usually takes three to five treatments before you start to feel significantly better. If you have a lower back problem, a chiropractor may be better equipped to handle it than a medical doctor. Ultrasound, and electrical muscle stimulation are examples of these therapies.

Lower back pain may be alleviated by using an inversion table to stretch or traction your spine. Inversion tables, which allow you to recline your upper body while relying on gravity to decompress your spine, are used by some chiropractors.


Make an appointment with your doctor if patience, basic home care, and alternative therapies fail to alleviate your lower back pain. In order to determine if you have a serious spinal problem, such as an entrapped nerve, a bone infection (osteomyelitis), an osteoporotic fracture, advanced arthritis, or a cancerous tumour, they will perform a thorough examination on you. Your doctor may prescribe stronger painkillers for pain management.

Physical therapy

Spinal rehabilitation therapy may be an option if your lower back discomfort is persistent (has persisted for several months or years) and can be traced back to weak muscles, poor posture, or degenerative disorders (such as “wear and tear” osteoarthritis), but it requires a doctor’s prescription. In order to alleviate lower lumbar spine discomfort, a physiotherapist can teach you particular stretches and exercises. For chronic lower back pain, physical therapy is typically suggested for 4 to 8 weeks at a time.

There are several different types of exercise balls, including medicine balls, elastic bands and therapeutic ultrasound devices that physiotherapists employ for spine rehabilitation. Swimming, rowing, specific yoga postures, and back extensions are some of the best workouts you can do on your own to strengthen your lower back muscles.

Injection of steroids

An injection of corticosteroid treatment can fast relieve inflammation and pain in your low joints, muscles, tendons, or ligaments if harsher prescription drugs and/or back rehabilitation do not show beneficial. Naturally occurring human hormones serve as the basis for corticosteroids, which have potent and rapid anti-inflammatory effects. Prednisolone, dexamethasone, and triamcinolone are the most commonly prescribed by doctors. If she believes the injection will be beneficial, your primary care physician will most likely recommend that you seek treatment from a back specialist.

Local infection, excessive bleeding, tendon weakening, muscular atrophy, nerve irritation/damage, and a weakened immune system are all possible side effects of having steroid injections. Injections of corticosteroids can provide pain relief for a few weeks or even months at a time. A maximum of two injections each year is the limit for most doctors. A surgical technique (there are many different surgical procedures) should only be considered as a last resort if corticosteroid injections do not relieve your lower back discomfort.

Back support from a kayak seat

Investing in a high-quality kayak seat will allow you to hold up well in any situation. They need back support just as much as they need food, water, and shelter every day. Inadequate back support can lead to back pain and, in the worst cases, significant problems with the backbone. Angling enthusiasts can relax comfortably for as long as they like in a kayak seat with good back support.


I hope you follow the recommendations and avoid any further back pain. If you’ve pushed yourself to the edge when kayaking, you may have some back pain. However, you should never let back pain keep you from embarking on a new journey. Most kayaking-related back discomfort is caused by bad posture and sitting in the same position for lengthy periods of time.

Maintain proper posture and safe lifting techniques when in the paddler’s seat as well as in your daily life to protect your back. You’ll be able to kayak for many years to come if you take care of your back today.

Vanessa Hopkins

Hi, I'm Vanessa. Long-time kayaker who's proud to be part of this community. I strive to provide our visitors with insightful guides with the aim to improve their kayaking experience. I've been working with SunshineKayaking for over 5 years, providing world-class services.

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