Is Kayaking Bad For Sciatica? Mistakes To Avoid

You may wonder, “is kayaking bad for sciatica?”

Kayaking is a fantastic way to get outside and enjoy nature.

But for people with sciatica, kayaking can be a risky activity.

I have lived most of my adult life with sciatica, and I can tell you kayaking with sciatica is no joke.

This blog post discusses the risks and benefits of kayaking for folks who suffer from sciatica.

We will also provide tips on paddling without upsetting your sciatica.

Is Kayaking Bad For Sciatica?

If you suffer from sciatica, you should talk to your doctor before hitting the water. Kayaking may not be the best activity for you. Sitting for long periods (whether in a kayak, office chair, or otherwise) can definitely piss off your sciatic nerve. Aggravating the sciatic nerve can lead to pain, numbness, and tingling in your lower back, legs, and feet. Sometimes you can’t get comfortable sitting. Other times you can find a seated position that doesn’t cause pain.

What Is Sciatica

Sciatica is a general term for pain radiating from your lower back down your legs.

The pain is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in your body.

Sciatica can be caused by many things, including a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and pregnancy.

The Risks Of Kayaking With Sciatica

Kayaking can be a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors, but it’s important to know your limitations.

However, if you talk to your doctor and take some precautions, kayaking can be a safe and fun activity for people with sciatica.

Back Exercises

Finding the correct exercises to alleviate pain can be challenging for anyone with sciatica. However, stretching and exercise can be a great way to help reduce symptoms.

Before getting on the water, it’s essential to warm up with some simple back exercises. Since back pain is a very individual thing, talk to your doctor about exercises you can perform to loosen up before you hit the water.

Also, keeping your core and hamstrings strong can be a good sciatica deterrent.

Choose Your Kayak Wisely

For many, kayaking is a great way to exercise while enjoying the outdoors.

If you’re dealing with sciatica, you know how important it is to find activities that won’t aggravate your condition and send shooting pain down your leg.

Been there, done that.

But when it comes to choosing the right kayak, it’s important to consider your needs. 

If you suffer from sciatica, a sit-on-top kayak may be better than a sit-inside kayak.

Sit-on-top kayaks are easier to get on and off, and the seats sit higher (like a lawn chair vs. a sitting on the floor) and are more upright than a sit-inside kayak.

The right seat can make kayaks more comfortable for people with sciatica.

For me, climbing into the cockpit of a sit-inside kayak can cause all sorts of pain shooting down my right leg.

With a sit-on-top kayak, it’s much easier to get on and off, and a nice elevated kayak seat can make a huge difference.

Plus, you’ll have more room to move around in a sit-on-top kayak, which can help you avoid triggering your sciatica.

Another benefit to a sit-on-top kayak is the ability to stand up.

Now, you can’t stand up on all SOT kayaks, but you have a better chance than a sit-inside kayak. Standing up now and then and stretching out can be a lifesaver for folks paddling with sciatica.

So if you’re looking for an easier kayak on your back, a sit-on-top model may be the way to go.

Lifting The Kayak

Another potential sciatica trigger comes when you have to lift your kayak overhead to put it on a roof rack.

Lifting awkward and heavy things overhead (like a kayak) can instantly send searing pain down your leg.

Investing in a kayak trailer is an excellent alternative to using a kayak roof rack.

With a kayak trailer, loading and unloading your boat is much simpler since the kayak is closer to the ground.

In addition, carrying your kayak to and from the water can also irritate sciatica, and this is where a good kayak cart comes in handy.

A kayak cart allows you to easily roll your kayak from the car to the water’s edge, and it’s a lot easier on your back than trying to carry the kayak.

Paddling With Sciatica

Once you’re on the water, you can do a few things to make paddling with sciatica more comfortable.

Try to maintain good posture when paddling, which helps me a lot. When I start to slouch, my lower back screams at me.

Sit straight, engage your core, and don’t paddle with your arms—instead, paddle with your torso.

Make sure your footpegs are in a good position, so you can keep your legs bent and apply some pressure to the pegs to help take pressure off your lower back.

If you sit up straight and lean slightly forward, you may experience less pain and have a more efficient paddling stroke.

And finally, take breaks often.

Paddling can be taxing on your body, and if you’re in pain, it’s important to listen to your body and take a break (or stand up) when you need it.

Other Things That Can Aggravate Sciatica When You Are Paddling

Paddling too aggressively and twisting to reach your fishing pole or other gear can aggravate sciatica when you are kayaking.

The main reason is that it puts extra pressure on your back and spine, which can irritate the sciatic nerve.

If you do not use proper form when paddling, you might also have an unhappy sciatic nerve.

So, if you paddle, use proper form and go easy on the aggressive strokes. Save yourself the pain and aggravation.

Wrapping Up – Is Kayaking Bad For Sciatica?

Sciatica can be a enormous pain in the…back. But with some knowledge and preparation, you can still enjoy kayaking, even with this condition.

Just choose the right kayak, get some good gear to help you carry and load your kayak, and take care when paddling.

Following these tips, you can minimize the pain and still have a great time out on the water.

Happy paddling.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.