How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?

Last update: 2023-03-17

Some people can’t stand straight after hours of kayaking, and commonly feel back pain right at that time or on the day after.

If you have heard about it or unfortunately suffered that annoyance a few times, it’s essential to find out the real causes to hence get the right cure as well as a prevention plan. Here is a full guide about how to avoid back pain when kayaking, consulted by many kayaker experts.

What Causes Back Pain When Kayaking

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?

Kayakers are the ones who commonly suffer lower back hernias, which makes people believe this problem is coming from kayaking.

But actually, it doesn't cause lower back issues.

There’s an important muscle in one’s back, called iliopsoas – which loads the last discs when you’re lying on the back or sitting upright with distending legs. And, kayaking tends to contract this muscle.

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking


From our explanation above, the best way to avoid back pain when kayaking is to strengthen the iliopsoas. Below are some useful exercises to follow:

Exercise For Glute Muscles

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?

Keep both arms and the back straight. Align your back to create a 90-degree angle with your arms and parallel to the floor. Keep your head on the same line with your back, and face down.

Now, kick your left leg up with the foot going towards the ceiling and the knee bent.

Adjust the height of your kicks as long as you feel a stretch on glute muscles with no pain. Repeat 10-25 times on each side.

Side-Lying Hip Abduction

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?

Lie down on the left side with the right-left kept straight and the left one bent slightly. Pull up the right toes and point them forward. Align your body as long as your hips are perpendicular to the ground.

Lift the right leg up and slightly back; lead with your heels, not your toes.

Control the movement. Do it nice and slowly. You don’t have to lift your leg too high, just moderately depending on your limit.

Repeat 10-25 times on each side.


Stretching is a good way to go because when kayaking, your iliopsoas has a tendency to be shorter, resulting in pain. How to stretch?

Quad Stretch

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?
Put the left knee on the floor while bending the right one at a 90-degree angle in front of you.

Grab and pull the left ankle up towards your butts. Hold this gesture for 20-30 seconds. Repeat three times on each side. If the floor is too tough, put a pillow underneath your knees.

Stretch The Glute Muscles

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?

Do a figure four-stretch with your left ankle put cross over and one the right thigh part of the knee. Lean forward while keeping your back straight.

If you feel a stretch on the bottom area, you’re stretching properly.

Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch to the other side. Repeat three times on each side.

Change Positions

Look for chances to give your body a break when kayaking.

If you’re lake and river paddling and the route takes around 2-3 hours, come close to the shoreline to stop and take a break for 3-5 minutes.

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?

Give your back and spine a chance to re-adjust to change the areas that receive the most pressure by getting out of the boat and walking around. Doing some stretches is also really helpful!

If you’re ocean kayaking and the route takes days to weeks, there are fewer opportunities to take a break.

In this case, you can wait until paddling to calmer waters to bends or do some hip movements to relax your body.

Practice Correct Paddling Technique

Improper paddling techniques are the most common cause of back pain. In worse cases, it leads to injuries to your obliques and lower back.

Here are the proper kayaking techniques:

Sitting Position

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?

The ideal sitting position should be upright with your legs comfortably flexed and your feet resting securely and comfortably against the footwells or foot pedals.

Use Your Paddle

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?If you use a feathered paddle, decide which is your control hand or glue hand.

The control handgrip should be always fixed at anywhere from 4” to 8” from the blade no matter the stroke types you’re taking. Keep the knuckles of your control hand properly aligned with the edge of the paddle blade.

The other hand should hold the paddle at an equal distance from the blade.

Set Up Your Kayak

Try as many types of kayak as possible to find out the right one for your body size. Note: Put on the same kayaking shoes that are going to be used in the next trips.

Check if the seat, the padding, and the foot rest are comfortable for you. It’s best to go for a kayak featuring adjustable seats and footrest positions.

How To Avoid Back Pain When Kayaking?

Before starting any kayaking route or excursion, make sure to check if the boat seat and footrests are in the right place.


Out of the tips we’ve shared with you above, the most important thing to avoid back pain when kayaking is to know your limits. Never try a three-hour kayaking route on your very first trip unless you want your back to be overstressed and injured.

Always pay attention to the weather condition and water before deciding to work up your pace and distance.

That’s all for this post. Thanks for reading!

Bryan Listor
Bryan Listor

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