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1. Why does rowing cause pain?

Rowing is an intense sport that involves repetitive flexion and extension of the spine. This repetitive motion can cause damage over time. Specifically forward flexion at the waist (often seen between the recovery and the catch phase) can wreak havoc on the back.

2. How do I know if my rowing form is correct?

The first step in addressing this issue is checking your rowing form with a coach or other expert. An expert will be able to pick out form errors that may be causing or worsening your pain. You should do this step even if you have been rowing for a long time with the same stroke and not experienced pain. Painful problems often develop over a long time. These problems may seem to start overnight when in reality that have been slowly worsening and suddenly become painful. Here are some tips for proper form to avoid back pain:

Avoid letting the back round forward

Think power clean, keep your chest up and forward

Keep your core tight throughout the stroke

Avoid pulling too much with your torso. Your back shouldn’t extend far beyond 90 degrees​

3. My form is correct but my back still hurts. What’s going on?

Even when done correctly, the rowing motion places a great amount of stress on the spine. Each stroke compresses the discs in the spine. This can cause alignment issues and nerve irritation. Also, even well-conditioned athletes can develop muscle imbalances that can cause tears or joint inflammation. It’s easy to imagine how rowing from one side of a boat for weeks, months or years may cause musculoskeletal imbalances. Rowers often note an over developed latissimus dorsi, a pelvic tilt and other asymmetries.

4. What treatment options do I have for back pain due to rowing?

Gentle chiropractic adjustments are used to correct improper alignment. Targeted exercises may be used to correct muscle imbalances. Nerve flossing and myofascial release is often used to reduce long standing muscle adhesions and nerve irritation. Dr. Ward has helped many rowers return to full function rapidly through sports rehab and worked with the Division 1 crew teams at Georgetown University. Most cases respond well to conservative treatment. In rare and severe cases MRI and more invasive treatment may be necessary.

5. How do I prevent back pain due to rowing?

Proper training can reduce the risks of back problems on the water. Here are some prevention tips to consider:

Strength train year round. A balanced strength and conditioning program will go a long way for preventing future problems. Routines should be programmed around dynamic movements.

Use a dynamic warm up. Warm ups that involve moving stretches and activities (as opposed to static stretches) help reduce injury risk.

Train for core stability. A strong core is vital to maintaining spinal health. Ditch the sit ups as these can actually worsen back issues over time. Think planks, bird-dogs and bridges.

See a chiropractor for a tune up. Keeping the spine in line is often easier that fixing an existing problem. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We pride ourselves in our caring and long-term relationships we develop with our patients, so to request an appointment, please contact us today. We look forward to seeing you.

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Dr. Ward and his staff are fantastic! When I came for my first visit, I was welcomed warmly and didn't wait long at all. Each time I was able to make an appointment without any problems. The pain in my hips has improved significantly and faster than I was expecting. Having found this wonderful office, I am able to be active again without pushing through pain.

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