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!
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.
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!