This article first appeared on the PAINLESS KAYAK FISHING blog.
Some kayak outfitters still suggest that good kayaking technique (I.E. “sit straight and rotate your upper body”) is the solution for lower back pain a.k.a. ‘yak back’.
Well, it’s not –
According to this article “Is ‘Rotation Training’ Hurting Your Performance? a.k.a. “Is Rotation Even A Good Idea”, rotating your lumbar spine isn’t such a great idea, and in fact it could harm you.
It’s about time professional kayaking instructors and some die-hard kayakers stopped saying that poor kayaking technique is the reason why kayakers and kayak fishermen feel pain in their lower back. The truth is that the back pains felt by so many is the result of bad ergonomics embedded in the design of all sit-in and SOT kayaks. It’s definitely not the fault of any kayaker or kayak fisherman.
It’s probably not the fault of the people who design and manufacture those kayaks either, because there’s really no other practical way to keep a modern-days paddler seated in such a kayak, or on top of it, without using the combination of a footrests and a backrest that aboriginal arctic people didn’t need to use in their kayaks.
This combination of footrests and backrest locks the paddler in a uniquely non-ergonomic position known as the L posture, which forces his/her legs to apply strong pressure on the lumbar spine – through the backrest (a.k.a ‘lumbar support’). It’s a bio-mechanical aberration:
Rotating one’s upper body doesn’t solve this problem because it’s not supposed to solve it in the first place, and as recent research reveals – such repeated rotation is in fact not good for the spine, and could be the source of additional injury and more pain.
Good kayaking technique can improve your performance in terms of speed, but it would be irresponsible or naive (or both) to suggest that it can either prevent or cure back pain.
In order tom prevent back pain you need to paddle a kayak that doesn’t force your body into unnatural postures and movements. Such kayak has to allow your legs to perform their natural role of supporting your upper body and providing power for your balance and motion efforts. This kayak should allow you freedom of movement, altering your body posture, switching between various positions anytime you feel like it, and standing up confidently while paddling and fishing, in order to relax your muscles and re-establish your blood circulation.
This kayak exists in fact. It’s the patented Wavewalk Kayak.