Sciatica and Kayaking

Sciatica and Kayaking

Kayaking can be a great workout and it is an activity that also helps rejuvenate your mind. Who does not love the idea of getting closer to Mother Nature and enjoy the serenity while paddling in a calm lake or river, far from the bustle of the city! Indulging in kayaking with certain physical conditions needs consideration, though. If you have chronic back pain or Sciatica, you have to be careful. Sciatica denotes a pain in the sciatic nerve. Kayaking doesn’t necessarily lead to sciatica but those with the condition need to exercise caution. 

The basics of Sciatica

Approx 40% of people tend to develop sciatica but for the majority, it happens to be a temporary condition. A sciatica attack may persist for a few days and if you are lucky, it will ease up in a few hours. People with sciatica often find it recurring. The sciatic nerves, positioned in the lower lumbar spinal region, are actually the biggest ones in the entire body. When these nerves are subjected to excess pressure and stress, pain occurs. It can be sharp or dull. Some people with Sciatica may find it worsening after a kayaking session though that is not always the case. 

The risk factors for developing Sciatica owing to kayaking

While kayaking itself does not lead to the formation of sciatica, not exercising caution may enhance the risk of developing it during and after the activity. Typically, people developing sciatica after indulging in kayaking have pre-existing conditions. It can be triggered by kayaking for a long time while sitting in an improper posture. Obese people face more risk in this regard. Pregnant women also need to be careful about this. 

How to know if the pain you experience after kayaking is sciatica or not?

After kayaking, it is not uncommon to experience stiffness in the back and sore muscles. However, that may or may not be indicative of sciatica. When you sit in a position for a long time and perform certain muscle movements repeatedly, muscle fatigue and soreness is natural. Sciatica symptoms may overlap with those caused by regular or longstanding back pain. 

The best way to figure out if the back pain you are experiencing after kayaking is Sciatica is by getting diagnosed properly. The physicians may advise you to undergo a range of tests for this. They may ask for an x-ray of the spine and a CT scan may also be on the cards. Another test you may have to undergo is EMG. After checking these test results, the doctor can reach a conclusion. 

Can you kayak if you have Sciatica?

The majority of people coping withSciatica can indulge in kayaking but they should exercise caution. Light to moderate kayaking may actually help loosen the tight muscles at the back. Of course, you need to talk with an orthopedic expert on this. The doctor may advise you to do kayaking with limitations or he may advise against kayaking in strenuous conditions. However, you have to figure out your comfort level in this regard. It may be helpful to change a few things used in kayaking. 

Some handy tips to reduce Sciatica Symptoms when you enjoy kayaking

Listed here are some tips which can be helpful when you want to enjoy kayaking with a Sciatica pain.

  • Try a new type of kayak- You may gain by using a different kayak model than what you use now. If the new unit helps you improve sitting posture, use it by all means. Check out a few models to figure out which allows you to make required body movements and get the right posture.
  • Add a seat- A kayak comes with an embedded seat but you can replace it with a customized one to attain better sitting posture. Get a seat with the right cushioning and back support.
  • Do some workouts before- Before you get into the water and enjoy kayaking, do some back exercises. Simple stretching and hand-free exercises can be good in this regard. It would also be a good idea to indulge in stretching after you wrap up kayaking for the day.
  • Try using lighter paddles- Sometimes, changing a paddle can be helpful to reduce back pain caused by kayaking. Opt for lighter paddles that do not put a strain on your arm and back muscles. 
  • Do not kayak for very long periods- To evade recurrence or formation of Sciatica, you should evade addling for several hours at a stretch. If you are paddling in a lake or artificial water body, break the kayaking session into a few parts. Take a break every 30 minutes, if you can. 

Summing it up

If you have back pain or sciatica, you can still enjoy kayaking. However, it is important to practice caution to evade recurrence of such pains. Choosing a suitable kayak, using the right paddles, and doing muscle-relaxing exercises can help you a lot in this regard. It may be prudent to ask a friend to accompany you while kayaking if you suspect the pain may recur. If you find the pain intensifying after kayaking, seek medical advice. To evade worsening of the pain while paddling, carrying suitable pain-relieving medications is useful. 

Posted by
Arthur G. Moore

Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.

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