Back pain, backrests^

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Mark R
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Back pain, backrests^

Post by Mark R »

Aching a bit in my lower pack today after paddling the past few days - a depressingly common situation these days, combination of age and lack of basic fitness.

As far as I'm concerned the only real solution is to get out and paddle more (and shift less furniture), but ... I'm not especially sure that the pretty decorative backrest in my Cetus is offering any real support.

Anyone understand backs and how they relate to backrests? Should I be looking to install something giving more support/pressure, or should I be training my back to sit upright without support?

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Post by CaptainSensible »

I could probably take the backrest out of my boat and not miss it; the seat in the Alaw has a hefty lower back/coccyx support that forces you to sit upright (something I end up doing anyway; I only lean back in my boat when resting or attempting to roll). I probably also use the knee braces in my boat to stop me from leaning backwards too.

I don't know what the Cetus seat looks like, but a big chunk of foam to support the lower back instead of a traditional backrest might work (I've seen an Alaw Bach with the backrest replaced with a [closed cell] foam wedge).
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Post by MikeB »

You're probably lacking sufficient sacral support (Google) - it may not just be the backband as the seat plays a part here too. However, I'd have said the P&H seats and backbands were generally not a problem.

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Post by Incayak »

Gentle yoga works for me (simple stretch exercises rather than ankles around the back of your neck)

Unfortunately, back problems are a function of age. Try this book - my girl's a yoga instructor and these simple stretches really make a difference ... eader-page
Last edited by Incayak on Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by TaysideTom »

Captain Sensible and MikeB are probably right about the sacral support at the base of the spine. There has been some discussion about seating positions on the Greenland kayak forums (since those kayaks don't usually have backrests), and I think the consensus is that you need something at the rear end of your backside to hold your back up straight, as CS describes. It should be comfortable to sit upright without support. I was paddling a fairly new Valley kayak last weekend, and the seat was noticeably very good at this - I only occasionally felt like leaning against the backrest, generally when stopping paddling and having a break.

I'd also have thought that a reasonably recent model P&H seat would be OK. But we all have differently shaped bodies and perhaps you need a bit more support at the back of the seat than the average size/shape paddler that a commercial boat needs to fit.

Here's one paddler's answer to the backrest/sacral support problem, which gives an impression of where the support needs to go:
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Post by MikeB »

Excellent! That's the link I'd been looking for!!

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Post by Mark-Tozer »

Lower back problems can also be associated with tight hamstrings ... trings.htm

Folk who sit at a desk, do lots of driving etc can be prone to this

A sports physiologist once recommended a remedy - try gently touching your toes three times, holding each stretch for 5 - 10 secs and repeat every hour during the day

It may be cobblers but its works for me!
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Post by Cornholio »

I think that all the seat units/backrests in P&H models of the last few years are basically the same. My one in the Quest LV isn't that good either, and I may replace it with an IR Reggie but indecisive as you get rapid corrosion problems in the ratchets, which happened with my Capella when I changed it in that. It made a huge difference though in that boat in terms of support, but fitting one would take a bit of inspection before getting the tools out...(I might still do it, suppose £30 doesn't break the bank and replacing it if it seizes up is a doddle as the ratchet straps are already in...)
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Post by Mike Marshall »

Bad Backs come from Beer Bellies Mark ;-)

You getting a beer belly?

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Post by Owen »

There's an interesting article in June's Sea Kayaker mag if you can get your hands on a copy. It gives half a dozen yoga type exercises that might help.
An old back injury and terrible posture are I think the main cause of my back problem. I used to do quite a lot of hill running but found that the jarring got to painfull. I've just started going swimming instead to see if that helps.
I don't think the backrest is as important as the angle of the seat pan. If that's set right you are pushed into a forward stance if not you can tend to slouch.
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Post by nickcrowhurst »

Disclaimer: I am ignorant in medical (and many other) matters. I have no idea what causes anyone else's back pain. I can only give my understanding of what makes MY back ache:
My healthy spine has a hollow shape in the lower back. This slight inward curve is called "lordosis". ... rdosis.asp (Too much is also not good, aka hyper-lordosis.) If the correct degree of lordosis is not maintained, and the spine curves forward at the top for long periods of time, the gelatinous discs between the vertebrae are squeezed out backwards until they rub on the nerves that travel along the spine and behind it. This causes back pain. The answer for me is to maintain the lordosis. While seated on an office type of chair, try hollowing the back and pushing the stomach forward, and then reverse the action by pulling the stomach back in and putting that convex bend in the spine, the one that causes the pain. Do this slowly a few times, and note that the pelvis tilts back and forth with this motion. To prevent the pain, the lordosis must be preserved by tilting the pelvis forward while hollowing the back. This can be aided by lifting the rear of the seat, and ensuring that the front of the seat is not too high. After that, my main way to maintain lordosis is constantly to push the navel forward while paddling, imagining that the navel ("the core") is the driving point, rather than the shoulders or the feet. My back then hollows. If I forget to do this, my back aches horribly. If I maintain lordosis, I don't have the problem. I don't need a backrest, nor do I feel that a backrest is a long-term fix, for ME.
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Post by Mark R »

Mike Marshall wrote:Bad Backs come from Beer Bellies Mark ;-)

You getting a beer belly?
Hmm, I'm not exactly Mr Blobby yet BUT I do have an occasional spare tire - by coincidence this weekend I put myself on a 'regime' as part of a vague attempt to be fit in time for my big paddle this summer - removing sugar from my diet (no chocolate! cakes! Coke! biscuits! etc!) outside mealtimes, and then only sparingly.

It sucks.

Regarding the back pain thing, I think that I will try loosening my backrest right off, and also think about doing some stretching - the days when I could hop right in a boat and blast off without consequence are long gone ...
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Post by Woods »

I have found on more than one occasion that backrests which are too high and too 'supportive' (ie, restrict movement in the mid lumbar region) are all bad.

A firm low backrest is the way for me -- something to push off but not 'rest on' -- all the real back 'support' coming from the muscles in your back.

Either lowering the slots for your existing backrest, or jacking up the seat with a foam pad is quick and easy to try out.

Jacking up the seat might aid your catch and power phase too! ;)

Last edited by Woods on Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by janet brown »

From a generalist physio (not sports specialist) and kayaker perspective:
Tight hamstrings are often a problem in kayakers
- stretching in standing bending to touch toes is not ideal
- stretches I like to use are well shown on the site here:
Posture is a key point: human body is very energy-efficient, so if your seat/backrest don't keep you in a good position, you soon start slumping. If seat angle and position are good, posture can be maintained better.

I'm not yet a sea-kayaker, but plan to start soon. My experience of a general/ whitewater kayak is that I like my backrest firmly holding me in position. Don't know if I'd feel different in a sea-kayak, as I've only done one long trip in a borrowed Sirius, and was too worried about capsizing in the Solent shipping channel to worry about my back!
Distraction is a wonderful thing.

And no, I don't want to know about all your physio problems: I have enough NHS work to keep me going!
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Post by rockhopper »

Most back pain seems to be muscular rather than skeletal. What tends to happen is that you pull a muscle in your back by over exertion or, more commonly, sit awkwardly for a period of time (whether at work, driving or lounging on the sofa) and one side will go into spasm. Often this is not a problem and all the muscles re-adjust however occasionally the muscles spasm enough to start to hurt on one side. This causes the muscles to 'guard' (they tense up to try to prevent further damage). When this happens it becomes very easy to progressively make the problem worse. Further movement causes further 'guarding' and even lying still can cause problems as the muscle seems to need some movement so that they retain a degree of flexibility (medical people now say that lying flat to try to ease the problem is not as good as gentle movement). Usually the trouble is only down the muscles on one side of the spine (in the small of the back just above the pelvis) but this means that even walking or pressing the clutch pedal can be very painful. I found that one of the worst things that exacerbated the problem (and even started back pain) was sitting with your legs crossed (even at the ankles) which most people do without thinking. At the first sign of a twingy back I used to take a couple of anti-inflamatories (nurofen type) and ensure I drove as little as possible and sat properly without crossing my legs.
This clearly doesn't cover everybodys back pain but it does seem to be a fairly common one.

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Post by rotobat »

This was discussed ... highlight= which maybe of interest.

And to quote Incayak "Unfortunately, back problems are a function of age" this is not neccessarily the case, its how you use yourself more than age/time.
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Post by Windowshade »

I have removed the factory back bands from my Valley & NDK boats and replaced them with whitewater back bands. These help maintain a snug (but not tight) fit in the cockpit.

The back band support is behind my hip bones; this helps especially with efficient power transfer on the forward stroke. The back band does not interfere with back deck rolls, nor with re-entry & roll self-rescues.

Sitting up and leaning slightly forward helps you paddle better. (Tight hamstrings make this more difficult.) A good back band makes it easier.
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Post by Jonathan. »

Janet - I looked at for the stretches you recommend but it was a dead end.

Your advice welcome, please (if the NHS will give you the time off ;-).
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Post by lg18 »

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Post by janet brown »

Thanks Lucy: as a newbie I'm not yet deemed safe to post URL's!
Hope you're able to find the stretches now, Jonathan. If not, let me know and I'll describe them in longhand!
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Post by ChrisBainbridge »

Hi Mark

One suggestion is to try the jackson sweet cheeks. The shape of it means that you can squash the filling towards the rear and therefore lift your sacrum and tilt yourself forward slightly. This will straighten your back out and allow you to sit in a better position.

Get someone to photograph you sitting in your boat. You may find that you are starting to slouch a bit which will upset the shape of your back. You may want to work on your core muscles to try and improve this.

Also have a look at your foot blocks as the angle of your ankles especially as you get a bit older and stiffer will flow up your legs to your back.

The stretches suggested above are really good as kayakers always have tight hamstrings and piriformis.

Good luck

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Foam back rest

Post by ChrisS »

I have made one of these for my Explorer and find it a great improvement on the backrest supplied with the boat.
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Post by Mark99 »

I put a back support from an Islander SOT in my boat. It fitted really easily and helps a lot. A lot of folk attribute these kind of limitations to old age, beer guts or whatever, when actually they are carrying a little injury that can be sorted. Once it's fixed, they're good as new.
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Post by Wilf »

Mark, you have my empathy and sympathy. I lost too many years of paddling due to back pain.

Core stability is not insignificant in this. Whilst I am interested to read about hamstrings and the likes (I do have exceptionaly tight HS myself) working on core stability has had great benefit to myself.

I think there is a BCU download on this, I'll have a look and post it if I can find it.

Here it is. ... d_1421.pdf
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