Dragon boat paddling has been known to cause lower back pain. In fact, rowing in general has been linked to lower back pain. But why? What specific lower back conditions are caused by these activities?
Rowing and Lower Back Pain
Two of the more common lower back injuries associated with paddling and rowing are lumbar disc herniation (also commonly called sciatica, slipped disk or slipped disc) and lumbar spondylolisthesis (degenerative spondylolisthesis). These are very common lower back conditions that are not exclusive to rowing. The movement of rowing is similar to many daily tasks that require bending forward and pulling.
Lumbar Disc Herniation and Rowing
In the case of lumbar disc herniation, repeatedly flexing the spine forward can lead to a weakening of the outermost structure of the disc, eventually allowing the inner “jelly-like” material to bulge out. More often than not, this inner material protrudes posteriorly (backwards) and laterally (to the side). This movement of disc material can cause pressure and irritation of the nerves which exit the spine, often leading to sensations of pain, numbness and tingling or pins and needles into the buttock and leg. Many people refer to this pain as “sciatica” or “sciatic nerve pain”. For many rowers, the repeated flexion and extension of the spine creates muscle fatigue and a loss of support, compression and herniation of the lumbar disc. This creates persistent lower back pain with symptoms of sciatica. This type of low back pain and rowing are very common and can also occur with dragon boat paddling.
Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis
Spondylolysis typically involves an acute or stress fracture at the pars interarticularis and can lead to a forward displacement of one vertebrae relative to the one below (spondylolisthesis). The risk of developing a spondylolisthesis greatly increases in sports that demand a significant level of hyperextension or extension and rotation of the lumbar spine. As mentioned above, rowing and paddling are good examples of sports related to back pain, especially lumbar spondylolisthesis, degenerative spondylolisthesis and spondylolytic spondylolisthesis.
Burlington Chiropractor Back Pain Tips…
Given the fact that these are all non contact injuries, one can assume that they are preventable to a certain degree. Here are some tips to think about when considering low back pain and rowing or lower back soreness from rowing…
1. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the entire stroke. Rowers who adopt a slumped position at the catch or finish tend to have a higher incidence of low back injuries.
2. Maintain an anterior pelvic tilt throughout the catch phase to decrease the amount of lumbar flexion necessary and thus reducing the amount of stress on spinal structures.
3. Endurance training should be emphasized in the lumbar erector spinae muscles to help reduce excess flexion of the lumbar spine.
4. Stretching of the hamstrings and gluteals can help to obtain an adequate anterior pelvic tilt. Stretching the hip flexors may also help to decrease the amount of anterior pull on the spine.
5. Finally, many injuries are actually created or worsened by your actions on land and in the gym. Be sure that you have proper instruction on technique and training regimen before beginning an exercise program.
Treatment for Lower Back Pain
Of course, all of the aforementioned suggestions can really depend on your particular diagnosis and your individual spinal mechanics. Our clinic in Burlington offers a number of treatment approaches for the patient with low back pain. These services can be provided by our Chiropractors or our Physiotherapists. Call us at 905.220.7858. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rumball JS, Lebrun CM, Di Ciacca SR, Orlando K. Rowing injuries. Sports Medicine 2005; 35(6): 537-555.
Ho SR, Smith R, O’Meara D. Biomechanical analysis of dragon boat paddling: a comparison of elite and sub-elite paddlers. Journal of Sports Sciences 2009; 27(1): 37-47.