Do you struggle with back pain when you paddle?
Almost every time I run a clinic, I meet paddlers who are suffering.
Back pain is a quite common physical issue in paddleboarders.
It’s the most common health problem worldwide and a major cause of disability, according to the World Health Organization.
The WHO estimates the low-back pain at 60% to 70% in Industrialized Countries (see ref*).
There would be different reasons behind this condition, paddling included.
But let’s start at the very beginning.
I truly believe that knowledge behind any phenomenon, physical issues included, gives us the highest chance to manage it in the best way.
So, why your back hurts?
There would be three different answers:
• A direct or indirect trauma
• Wrong use of the back caused by postural impairment, precedent injury or trauma or wrong paddling technique
• Overuse due to the training
The first reason
Well, speaking of trauma, the situation is quite clear.
A direct trauma means a situation where, for instance, you fall hitting your back.
That could damage the soft tissues in that area or, more unluckily, cause a deterioration of vertebrae or discs.
An indirect trauma, on the other side, involves a situation where you don’t hit your back directly, but an incorrect movement causes an overload on the structure.
Let’s think about a dive in shallow water. Even if you beat with your head or shoulder, you probably have bent your back too far.
This episode could damage the soft tissues or bones as well.
In both cases, what you need to do is go to a qualified physician, have an assessment of the damage and get a solution from them.
The second reason
This is, probably, the most common reason for back pain among the paddlers.
A wrong posture of your body and torso, in particular, brings you toward a wrong asset of the back.
As you can see in the picture, our spine alignment involves four curves which are fundamental for the correct distribution of the load.
If your posture is poor because of a bad habit, like endless hours at the desk or because of old trauma, you probably will keep your back out of its correct alignment, significantly increasing the risk of damage for the structure.
In this case, we could do something to fix it.
To keep your back in the right alignment, actually, you need to improve the postural control, the strength, and flexibility of your body. How does it?
Doing the right exercises and the proper progression in the routines as I will show you in my 3-week Intensive Course.
The third reason
Overuse means pushing too hard and for too long.
Even if your back has the right alignment, if you ask it too much work and you don’t give it enough recovery, the structure will suffer.
This path could quickly lead to back pain as well.
The smart way to fix it is to find the right balance between training and rest.
As you can figure out surfing the net, over-reaching and over-training are quite favorite topics.
So often I meet outstanding athletes but facing chronic inflammation or low performance.
In the most of the cases, they are working too much, and they have too short and bad resting periods.
To get the right rate training/rest is hard work and it is one of the focus of my lessons during my training courses.
Now, realized the causes of your back pain, you need to understand the consequences.
Let’s keep it simple.
We’ve highlighted the fact that your back could work with a wrong alignment.
That means a bad distribution of the load on the vertebrae.
This situation causes an asymmetrical compression of the soft disc between two vertebrae.
This asymmetry could lead, day by day, to a strain of the disc itself until its deformation (“bulging”) or rupture (“a hernia”).
As you can see in the picture, beside the vertebrae-disc complex, many nerves are going from the marrow to each part of our body.
In the case of deformation of the intervertebral disc, one of these nerves could be “touched,” disturbing its work of signal transmission.
That could cause many different symptoms, one of which is the pain.
The problem is that, even with no deformation of the disc, in the case of asymmetrical compression due to a wrong asset of the back, you can get those symptoms as well.
Coming back to our main topic, you need to learn how to move with the right alignment of your back.
But you can do that, only if we have three things:
- the right control of your back,
- enough strength,
- enough flexibility to manage the movements
If you have those three elements, you can easily keep correct your back alignment and manage any load.
Just one last thing.
Remember that disc bulging or herniation are medical conditions. You have to see a qualified physician before any step forward. This is mandatory.
Good, I guess you would have a more clear view of what’s behind your issue.
I know, the question now is: what about paddling?
Well, paddling could have both a positive or negative effect on your back.
Many studies tell us that paddleboarding increase balance and core muscles tone.
Even the posture helps you to keep your back safe.
There are two factors to consider about all this though:
- your paddling technique and posture
If you haven’t a proper technique, you’ll overload your body, and that could lead to an injury as we have seen before.
- the eventual existence of a physical issue that makes you move differently.
If you have any physical issue that makes you change your posture, it will affect your movements and, again, you’ll overload some part of your body.
What are we going to do about all this?
Let’s start with the technique and let’s see the two main mistakes I see so often during my clinics.
We’ll speak about these two main mistakes in two separated posts.
Have you ever feel back pain during or after your sessions?
I’ll give you specific exercises designed to give you the muscles balance and strength.