As white water kayakers, we tweak the outfitting of our boats to be as snug as possible, to give the maximum amount of connectivity with our bodies and power transfer from our strokes. Great for effective kayaking technique, but it can take it’s toll on the body. Over time, muscle imbalances around the hip, hamstring and lower back can lead to pain in the lower back and time off the water.
As always, prehab is better than rehab and time spent stretching and strengthening will pay dividends later on. Kim Russell’s article here shows some exercises that can be done at home to keep the Yak Back at bay.
Another thing to consider is your posture in the boat. The slight forwards lean of the aggressive paddling position comes from the hips, not the upper back. Slouching forwards from the upper back to achieve the same results can lead to other problems, such as shoulder impingement syndrome.
Lastly, give some thought to warming up. Outside of the competitive disciplines, we’re generally pretty lazy about warming up and cooling down. Even when we coach others, it’s usually a matter of some half hearted windmilling of the arms, before dashing to get on the river. Why would you not do something that has been shown to improve performance and decrease the chance of injury?