Does Kayaking Hurt Your Back?

Kayaking is a really fun outdoor activity. You can do it with your friends, your family, or even by yourself if the situation calls for it. It’s just so relaxing to think about the fact that you can paddle and glide down a river smoothly, not a care in the world.

Everything has its drawbacks, in the case of kayaking, there is back pain. While it seems like something that isn’t usually associated with such an activity, it still happens, and it can cause major problems for people.

The Lower Back Pain [The Reason Behind It]

Lower back pain has been experienced by pretty much every human being at some point in their lifetime. This pain is associated with the lumbar region of the body, which starts just below the ribcage. It can either be acute or chronic and if it does not go away, it is recommended that you see a doctor.

In the case of kayakers, it is not the actual activity that is the cause of the pain. It can happen because of the contraction of specific muscles in the back, improper technique, overuse or straining, etc. This causes pain when standing fully upright or bending down, along with other things.

How to Prevent Paddlers’ Back Pain

Paddlers’ back pain can be hard to deal with. But not to worry; there are several things that can be done to prevent such pain from happening in the first place, and if it has already happened, not to let it occur again.

kayaking lower back pain

Personal Comfort

Before you even start kayaking, there are a lot of things you can do to make yourself comfortable and ease your body. First of all, choose the right kayak. There are a lot of different types to choose from, and you should test out a few to find the one you are most comfortable with.

People who actually suffer from back pain actually prefer sit-in kayaks instead of sit-on-top ones because the former comes with padded seats and higher back support in comparison to the latter.

You can also get special seats for kayaks with varying levels of padding to help support the lumbar region. Also, sit down in your kayak and check if you can reach the footrests easily. This can be done before you leave dry land, and it’s so you won’t strain your back.

Proper Posture

Proper posture can help keep the spine properly aligned, but it can be hard to stay in that position for a long time, especially if you are not used to it.

Start off by putting your feet out in front of you after you sit down. Your knees should be slightly bent, and your feet should rest on the pegs.

Next, straighten out your back. You can do it by imagining a straight line running from it up to the sky. Now, relax your body just enough to remove the tension, without slouching.

Getting used to this can take some time, but it will eventually become a habit, and then your back will thank you.

Correct Paddling Technique

Improper technique can lead to injuries. For instance, if you rotate your torso too much during paddling, you can injure your lower back and obliques.

Make sure to paddle carefully and stay within the paddler’s box. Also, make sure you are using your core muscles to power the strokes.

Also, remember to notice if any parts of your body feel pain or any strain while you are paddling. This can help you understand if there is something wrong with your technique and if you need to refine something.

paddlers back pain

Carrying the Kayak

On average, a kayak weighs anything from 20 to 100 pounds. The most obvious thing to go for if you have back problems is to use a lighter kayak, which is easier to lift.

If you lift the kayak in the wrong way, it can cause serious injuries because of sudden strain. Make sure to practice by using your legs to lift the kayak and not your back.

If you own a bigger or heavier kayak, ask your partner or kayaking buddy to help you out with it. Don’t try to be a hero, or you will be the one needing to be rescued.

Another thing that can actually be very helpful is a kayak cart. It really makes it easier to move your kayak around. Plus, team lifting it onto the roof of your car is your best choice for avoiding an injury.


Stretching and loosening up your muscles can really help to keep them from hurting. Did you know that it only takes about 15 to 20 minutes of sitting time for your back to start stiffening up? Considering the time it usually takes to reach most kayaking destinations, your back will probably start hurting even before you unload your boat.

Warming up your body can really help combat this. Doing some simple toe stretches or trunk rotations can actually go a long way towards keeping the pain away.

Also, cooling down stretches can help with any soreness caused by paddling. There are special post-kayaking stretches that make sure to prevent any muscle soreness.

Changing Positions

Usually, a kayaking route can be anywhere from one to several hours long. This means that you are probably going to be sitting for a long period of time, which can be problematic. However, it is better to take breaks during your adventure, so find a few places to stop and take a break.

River and pond kayaking actually lets you get closer to the shoreline, so you can actually stop for a little while and get out to take a walk for a minute or two before returning to kayaking.

This lets your back readjust because even if you sit with proper posture, there are still going to be some points in your back that are under more pressure than others. So even sitting perfectly isn’t great for long periods of time.

But these types of walking breaks aren’t possible when you are kayaking in the sea or the ocean. In those situations, look for moments to give your body a break.

Treating Soreness

Do not put off treating your sore muscles. It must seem so tempting to just lie down when your back hurts, but this just makes the muscles tense up even more.

Do some light stretches and movements to help with the soreness. Also, make use of your chosen pain relief methods, such as using a hot pack or an ice pack, pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, or even some kind of natural remedy that can help soothe the pain.

back soreness

Kayaking with a Bad Back

It is recommended that people with previous back injuries consult a doctor before they start kayaking or take it up regularly. It is best to do so for their own safety and to make sure they don’t get hurt again.

This is especially when it comes to severe back injuries like herniated discs. They can actually get worse if you put more pressure on your spine than it can handle. Compressed nerves can also be a problem, as they can get irritated, especially if kayaking causes inflammation in your back.

But if your bad back stems from mild injuries or just soreness, then it is alright. You can still go kayaking, but remember, don’t overdo it or overexert yourself. Take proper precautions and protect yourself from getting hurt, as you want to enjoy it, not regret it.

Also, pick smaller bodies of water and plan your trips for when the weather is calm. This makes it easier for you to call off the adventure early if your back begins to hurt.

Back Support Seats

Nowadays, special kayaking seats are available. These provide back support and make sure that you can be comfortable while sitting and paddling.

There is quite a variety in the market, and you can choose whichever one is best for you. They come with different types of foam padding; some also have gel instead of foam, etc. They are also covered in breathable fabric such as polyester or nylon as they mostly have to be used outdoors and have been designed as such.

Plus, they also have things such as additional compartments or pockets to help carry your stuff, which is great. They are constructed to provide kayakers with back pain relief and make the activity easier and more enjoyable for them and their bodies.


So, there you have it. Here are some steps you can take to make sure lower back pain stays away from you. Do keep in mind, occasional back pain is not something to be overly worried about, but it should not leave you debilitated. That’s when something may actually be wrong.

It can be hard to start on these at first, but incorporating them into your activity will only help you feel good and also be able to relax and have fun while kayaking. Make sure to keep them in mind the next time you go, and try them out so that you can decide what helps you best.