Post by Stacey Dault, D.O. on Aug 7, 2014 21:28:13 GMT -6
I think there are several things you need to consider before starting whitewater kayaking, especially given your history of back issues. You should seek the advice of a physician who is familiar with you and your history, can preform an appropriate exam, can give you appropriate advice whether it is safe for you, and provide you with individualized information to help make the activities you want to do as safe as possible for you. A few general thoughts:
First, for longterm back health you need to make sure to maintain a strong core - this means strong abdominal muscles as well as strong hips. It is also important to maintain good hip and hamstring flexibility. Consider the aid of a physical therapist or athletic trainer to help in developing a program appropriate for you.
Second, long periods of sitting are very hard on the lumbar spine, and obviously kayaking means a lot of time sitting. The shape and structure of a kayak also put your spine in an "L" shape at nearly a 90 degree angle, this is a difficult position to stay in for extended periods of time. That being said, if you maintain a strong core and find a kayak with appropriate lumbar support--or add additional lumbar support--to compensate for your osteochondrosis, you may be able to find something that works well for you. If you have any difficulty, consider using the help of a trained ergonomics or kayaking professional.
Finally, you will need to make sure to learn a technically sound paddling stroke. Inappropriate paddling can put extra rotational torque on your back and increase the risk for injury. Again, it will be important for you to maintain a strong core and lats in order to have an effective paddling technique that does not increase your risk for injury.
I hope these thoughts are helpful for you and you get to safely pursue your sport!
Stacey Dault, DO ASMI Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellow