Did you go to the MD and they said...
"don't row, it's bad for your back!"
As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I am not a huge fan of when people say this. Here's why.
First, it's common for people with back pain to stay stationary and not move. This is a behavior that is based on fear of pain. Then someone says not to move, and we fear moving even more. In reality, our bodies want movement, so when you have back pain, doing some stretching, and walking is actually beneficial and often makes you feel better.
Well, when someone says don't row, it's a similar fear component that happens. Not only that, but most people don't know how to row well, and with good form, so what makes you think your MD knows how to row?
Let me just paint an example. Let's say 1000 people go into an MD's office, and 100 of them said, I hurt my back rowing. Well now that MD has heard a lot of, ooooohhhh rowing and back pain must go together. Now, when someone says, hey I have back pain and I want to row, the MD says, not a good idea, because all that person sees is people getting hurt. The real question is...Hey Doc...Did you do some research on this? Do you know how to row?
Personally, in the clinic, if someone tells me something and I see it a lot, I want to research and find out more info. Or go try it myself. When I first got out of PT school, I went and did Groupons for over 15 different gyms. I wanted to try Crossfit, Orange Theory, Boot Camps, Cycling classes, etc. I wanted to know what my clients were doing, what feedback they were getting, and how they might get hurt so that I could better help them. I can tell you that not a lot of people do that. Let alone the MD's. Now I am not saying some people don't do this, because some do, but not all docs will. So I beg you, please start a conversation with your MD if they say rowing is bad for your back. Do some research and be educated when you chat with them.
I have tons of videos on back pain and rowing, feel free to send them my way. If you know the things that might aggravate it while rowing, work on it and pay attention to your form, and continue to listen to your body, there is no reason that you should not be able to try rowing. Not only that, but you are just as likely to hurt yourself cycling (which causes tons of SIJ, low back injuries), or bending over to pick up your kids or a pencil. So please don't live in fear of movement. Strengthening the muscles and working on your form and rowing really can be amazing.
So start the conversation with your doc, because we all need to learn and progress together. Education is key!
This is one of the most common questions I get.
First, I want to say that this is my opinion as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and please check with your surgeon. But I also want to say, please read my next blog post next week for more info on this.
However, I also believe that rowing is a fantastic activity to do and I explain in this video some reasons for that and some ways to avoid hurting your back.
I will follow this with a post I did in my Facebook group the other day and why I think having a conversation with your surgeon, especially if they say not to row, is really important. That will be coming soon!
Definitely, you need a good posture when rowing, And the advisable posture for rowing is being straight and tall. Keeping the back not rounding at the beginning part and not going to far at the end.
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Here is a simple 2 minute cool down you can do after rowing, these are stretching and some movements to get your body nice and relaxed.
Kneel down on all fours with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Round your upper back while pressing your shoulders
Pause, then slightly arch your back while looking up towards the ceiling. Return to starting position.
Get on a Plank position, reach your left arm under your right arm then reach your right arm under your left arm.
Begin on your hands and knees.
Stretch your elbows and relax your upper back.
Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles.
Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor.
Press the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis.
Lie on your back.
Bend one leg at the knee and keep the other leg flat on the ground.
Raise your bent knee up and then move it across your body.
Gently pull the knee with your hand toward the opposite shoulder.
I hope this helps!
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There are some common injuries that I see a lot with rowers.
Usually people think ribs, or shoulders, or knees...but honestly that is more common with people that row in a boat. Now with so many people having access to a rowing machine and using it at gyms and in their home-gyms, the number one injury I have been seeing is....
I find this interesting, because it's way more prevalent in people rowing on the machines than it is with people who row on the water.
I have been pondering why this is the case and polling hundreds of my clients/patients. What I have realized is that it really all comes down to form...
I had over 50 people bring in videos of them rowing. This allows me to see what they are doing and help figure out if the problem is coming from being on the machine or maybe from things they are doing in their everyday life.
What I found is that there are some common things that people do on the rowing machine when they haven't been taught great form. So I am going to share those things with you. Today I will write it out, I will post a video with some demos later this week.
1. Pushing your buttocks back. This is the most common one I have seen. People tend to straighten their knees and push their buttocks back, which increases their hinge at their hips and usually ends up aggravating the nerves in the back and legs.
2. Not hip hinging. What this means is that people tend to keep their back/hips in one position. At the beginning of the stroke you should be slightly hinged forward at the hip, and at the end of the stroke (the finish) you should be slightly hinged backwards at the hip. Some people keep this upright position the entire time and others tend to keep the hinged backwards position the whole time. This puts extra stress on the back because the back is trying to help in the stroke more than it needs to.
3. Slouching or being too upright. Remember when you were little and a grandparent or parent said, sit up straight? Well, when someone told me to do this, I would shoot straight upward and overextend my low back. There is a balance between being super upright and slouched, and that is usually the good "posture" position. This is the position you want when you row. It should be comfortable and not overly pushed to be upright when you row, but at the same time don't slouch excessively. Life is about balance...so is rowing.
Those are the three big things I see. Of course there are more, and everyone is different, but I will show you a video example of these things later this week. If you aren't sure or have questions about what might be happening, feel free to send me an email with or without a video of you rowing and let's get you going without BACK pain!
Do you get leg numbness or tingling when you row for 10 minutes? You aren't alone and there is likely a reason!
There are a few reasons that this could be happening and there are some things you can do on and off the water or rowing machine to try and help. One of the main reasons this is likely happening is from nerve irritation. It's not a big deal, but the more you make the nerve mad, the worse it will get. Nerves are finicky, so you want to stop numbness and tingling as soon as you feel it, if you can. This video shows some things you can do to try and help with some of the symptoms you might be getting.
1. Check your form
2. Hamstring Stretch
3. Piriformis Stretch (two different ways to do it)
4. Knee to Chest Stretch
5. Knee straighten/bend with rowing
There is another video I made that shows more things you can do on the rowing machine and some form things to pay attention to if you are having this type of pain with rowing. Here it is.
Feel free to comment if you have questions. This is not medical advice, but just general tips. Please follow up with a healthcare professional or feel free to reach out to me for specific questions.
This question gets asked a lot in clinic.
You had some tingling in your leg, or maybe just serious back discomfort that wasn't going away. You went to the surgeon, they told you the only way to fix it is, surgery. So...you get the surgery...but now what?
First, hopefully the surgery helped and your pain has decreased. If not, please reach out to me or a physical therapist in your area...we can help!
Second, yes, you can row! Many people row after back surgeries. Everyone is a little different on what they had done, what their symptoms were, and if the symptoms are gone or not, but this video covers a little bit about what you can do to get back to rowing and things to pay attention to that I commonly see.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
Do you get pain in the front of your rib, or maybe back by the spine or behind the shoulder blade? This is often the cause of a rib not being perfectly happy. This can happen for a variety of reasons. However here is a little insight into why it might be happening and some things you can try on and off the rowing machine or boat to help.
Often, we are sitting most of the day, then we row, which is still sitting, but involves sitting and a repetitive motion in one plane of motion, meaning forward and backward. There isn't rotation, which we normally do in our day. So certain muscles are working on overdrive and others not as much. So if we teach certain muscles to stabilize while in that position, that can help. Additionally, there are other things you can do.
Check out the video for demo and more information on the 4 things you can try.
Comment below if you have any questions.
Sciatica is super common, and even common in rowers. The rowing position requires our body to be active for a longer period of consistent repetitive movements that require our entire body to work. Additionally, the movement can put a lot of strain on our nervous system.
Check out the video to see some tips and tricks you can try to help with your symptoms and rowing.
While form is super important, it's almost important to know how to adapt the machine to work for you!
Amanda Painter is the Rowing Doc. She is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is here to help people stay active and rowing without aches and pains so they can keep doing what they love!