This season we had four guides/instructors from Wet Planet struggling with back pain and muscle spasms. This wasn’t particularly surprising, as whitewater paddling, especially kayaking, tends to work our bodies in ways that we weren’t really designed for. Sore muscles in the back are a pretty common result of spending lots of time in a kayak using your torso for all of your rotation and paddle power.
With so many of us lying flat on our backs, we decided we should spend a little time talking about what we can do, as paddlers, to keep our backs healthy. We turned to Heather Herbeck, Wet Planet guide and instructor, as well as certified PT and Fitness Specialist, for some advice. Heather definitely paddles hard, and as far as we know, her back seems to be doing fine. Heather has promised us a three part series on “Healthy Backs for Paddlers” on different back related topics. We’re including the series in our regular newsletter (you can see archived newsletters or make sure you receive the rest of the series by signing up for the newsletter here). In case you missed the newsletter, this is what Heather has to say about massage:
Healthy Backs for Paddlers – Part 1: Massage
Massage therapist Roberta Porter works with a kayaker during a Wet Planet Women’s Paddling Clinic.
I asked Bob Bernard, Certified Massage Therapist for over 15 years, his thoughts about massage and its relation to injury prevention and rehab for the back . . . “Kayaking is no different than any other sport, when it comes to muscle injuries/conditioning. Injuries can occur in kayakers, similar to football players, basketball players, etc. Massage therapy is encouraged both as a preventative measure and as part of injury rehab. The goal of massage therapy is to maintain the best possible muscle balance throughout the body. In kayaking, muscles of the rotator cuff, upper back (lats) and the lower back are overused and/or stressed during extended periods of activity. Massage therapists look for these areas of excess muscle tension and ease them down to help avoid chronic muscle injuries. Deep tissue massage, muscle energy work and soft tissue mobilization are all great methods to eliminate tensions in the body. Remember, being in good condition is the first step, which can be accomplished through a regular on/off river training program. But, maintaining muscle balance through regular massage will help prevent kayaking muscle injuries in the future and increase your performance and comfort in your kayak.” – Bob Bernard, M.T.
Massage therapy can enhance your performance with only a half hour of ‘maintenance’ massage, every couple of weeks. While one massage feels good and can give temporary relief, it is the regular massage program over time that really keeps your muscles relaxed and eases that back pain. Remember: Your muscles do not perform to their optimal capacity if they are tight and fighting every movement. So . . . It’s worth it!
Stay tuned for Part II and III of this topic, which will include strength training, stretching and more! Heather Herbeck, Certified PT & Fitness Specialist.
– Wet Planet @ 12:16 PM