Getting shoulder injuries when canoeing can hamper your enjoyment of the sport. So, as part of National Canoeing Week, we take a look at ways you can minimise the risks.
Unlike a number of other sports, canoeing is heavily reliant on upper body conditioning. However, this conditioning isn’t just about pure strength. The joint needs to be supple, mobile and flexible. And the tendons and ligaments need to be well conditioned as well as the muscles.
Let’s take a more detailed look.
Preventing problems – some tips on technique
If you watch an experienced canoeist paddling, it can look so simple. But getting the technique just right is harder than it first appears. Here are a few basic principles that will help minimise strain on the body. These simple ideas could help save a ton of rehab.
- Keep the paddle perpendicular and close to the side of the canoe
- Long smooth strokes are effective – but don’t overextend on the way forward
- Keep your arms in your field of vision
- Engage your torso in the stroke – not just the arms and shoulders
Pre-hab for the shoulders
Most people have heard of or experienced rehabilitation exercises. But pre-hab is talked about a lot less. However, simple exercises and stretches can go a long way in preventing shoulder injuries.
There are two keys to maintaining shoulder health. Firstly, it is important to correct any postural issues. Office work and modern furnishing mean many of us suffer from the hunched or rounded posture. This can compromise the shoulders. But with a little time and effort, this can be redressed.
Secondly, it is vital to work on strengthening muscles and soft tissue that help stabilise the shoulder joint. Of particular importance, are the small muscles that impact the rotator cuff.
As an example of simple pre-hab exercises, try incorporating the following
- External and internal shoulder rotation with a Dyna-band
- Alternate shoulder taps in the push-up position
- An exercise called the ‘prone-T’ (see this short clip)
Canoeing Shoulder Injuries – Recognising the problem
There are a number of conditions that can affect the shoulders when canoeing. Some common complaints include rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingement and frozen shoulder.
Depending on what symptoms you have, a qualified practitioner should be able to help you pinpoint the problem.
For example, a dull or achy pain that comes on gradually and worsens with exercise might indicate Bursitis. On the other hand, a sharp pain accompanied by weakness in the arm or shoulder can indicate rotator cuff problems.
But keep in mind that shoulder problems can escalate quickly. So early, accurate and careful diagnosis is vital.
Treating shoulder problems
The type of treatment you need to resolve shoulder injuries can vary enormously. Serious conditions may require complete rest or immobilisation. On the other hand, milder shoulder pain can require continued movement and regular gentle exercise to aid recovery.
Self-diagnosis is often fraught with danger. Seek out professional advice, and invest in a proper course of treatment to help avoid the problem recurring.