Is Kayaking Bad for Tennis Elbow? (Do They Mix?)

Kayaking is an excellent way to get out on the water and enjoy nature. However, is kayaking bad for tennis elbow? Do they mix?

In this article, we will explore how kayaking is good for your health in some ways and can cause harm if you are not careful.

A woman kayaks in the beauty of the forest and the natural world

Can kayaking cause tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is a common injury among tennis players, but is kayaking bad for tennis elbow? Kayakers are at risk of developing the condition since they often paddle with their palms upward.

In the forearm or wrist muscles that attach to the elbow joint, this repetitive motion can cause weakness and damage. Flexing is often performed with other muscles that extend across to the opposite arm.

Is kayaking bad for tennis elbow? It is unknown if this is due to a lack of research on people who have developed tennis elbow from kayaking. However, both activities can lead to similar injuries in certain circumstances.

Tennis elbow is not known to be associated with kayaking, even though these types of injuries are common among athletes.

However, a person can develop both conditions due to the exact mechanism of injury. Think twice if you are an athlete thinking of adding kayaking to your workout routine. When engaging in this type of activity, some people may experience pain in their wrists or elbows.

Can you kayak with a tennis elbow?

If the injury isn’t severe, you will still be in a position to kayak, provided that you take extra precautions.

Most injuries have the most beneficial outcome with rest, and anti-inflammatory medication is typically sufficient for mild cases of paddler’s elbow.

Choosing calm water is also a bright idea because it is less likely to require as much strain on your arms from paddling.

And don’t take long trips as it is likely to make your injury worse. Consider a shorter outing and taking breaks throughout it instead.

If you start feeling the pain worsening, turn back early so that you can give yourself time for recovery rather than make it more severe with paddling.

Tandem kayaking is an alternative option that some people use while they are recovering from an injury.

Additionally, pedal kayaks are available. You don’t have to use a paddle to move around.

Why do my elbows hurt after kayaking?

Kayaking requires a lot of arm movement and is often done with a paddle in each hand.

Some people experience arm pain when kayaking, typically referred to as “paddler’s elbow,” or medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow). This type of pain is usually caused by overuse of the forearm muscles due to repetitive paddling motions.

In some cases, it is possible that kayaking is the underlying cause of the golfer’s elbow or lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow). In these cases, you may not feel pain when kayaking but notice symptoms afterward.

RELATED:  Kayak Color Makes a Difference [Benefits of Using Bright Colorful Kayaks]

The symptoms will typically be more intense on one side than on the other because the muscles are more significant on one side of the arm.

If you have a history of elbow pain, it is advisable to see your doctor for an evaluation. It is before starting any new sport or activity that could make the symptoms worse.

There is no particular treatment plan for kayakers with tennis elbow, but they may need to take time off from kayaking to allow the elbow injury time to heal.

Trouble paddling with tennis elbow

There is a strong correlation between the overuse of your hand and arm muscles when paddling. Paddlers who have developed tennis elbow may find that they can’t grip their paddle, which can lead to an injury on the back of their hands.

To avoid this common problem, kayakers with tennis elbows may want to consider using a kayak paddle that is ergonomically designed.

There are several types of paddles available, including:

  • An overhand grip on the blade side;
  • an underhand grip around the shaft for those who have difficulty gripping and need something more stable;
  • other variations that grip the blade on top or under;
  • a two-piece paddle with an ergonomic handle that is designed to fit in your hands.

The good news is that kayaking without pain is possible! It just takes some modifications to make sure you are paddling correctly for your needs. Trying out different types of paddles is a great way to see which is best for you.

The girl is wearing a red PFD as she kayaks

What activities should I avoid with tennis elbow?

It would be worthwhile to avoid any activity that puts a strain on your elbow flexors. Any movement or weight-bearing exercise where you are bending, straightening, or rotating the arm is likely to aggravate it further.

Any weight-bearing exercise that requires bending or rotating the arm is likely to aggravate it. It includes chin-ups, push-ups, bench presses, and wrist exercises like forearm dumbbell curls or barbell extensions.

What activities aggravate the tennis elbow?

It is best to avoid activities that aggravate the condition.

The following is a list of activities associated with tennis elbow:

  • Playing racquet sports (tennis, badminton, or squash) or sports that involve throwing (javelin or discus);
  • using tools while decorating, plumbing or bricklaying;
  • activities that involve delicate, repetitive hand and wrist movements (typing or sewing);
  • activities that involve repeatedly bending the elbow (playing the violin).

What arm exercises can I do with tennis elbow?

You can do these stretches to help with tennis elbow:

  1. Finger stretching with a rubber band: Put a rubber band around your thumb and fingers and slightly cup your hand. If it is comfortable for you, slowly pull back on the rubber band. Near the inside of your elbow, you should feel your forearm muscles stretch. Hold the stretch for five seconds, and then repeat it as many times as you find comfortable.
  2. Grip: You can hold a tennis ball or kitchen utensil in your hand if you are experiencing pain. As your grip becomes uncomfortable, release it.
  3. Downward wrist stretch: Stand with your elbow bent so that your forearm is parallel to the ground. You should place one hand on top of the other with fingers pointing upward and the palm facing downward. Bring your hands together until you feel a stretch in your wrist muscles. Repetition for as long as you are comfortable is sufficient.
  4. Wrist curl (palm up, palm down): You should sit on the armrests of a couch or chair with your elbows on the armrests and your palms facing forward. As you curl one hand towards you, keep the other in place so that both palms face each other. Bring your fingers together in front of your chest and hold them for five seconds. It would help if you switched hands, so the palms of the two hands face each other. Your left hand should remain in place while your right-hand curls towards your chest as you did before. Maintain this position for five seconds while bringing your fingers to the front of your chest.
  5. Elbow curls (palm up, palm down): The wrist and hand of your forearm must be pointed downward. By holding your opposite elbow in place while curling your palms inward one at a time. It will ensure that both palms are in line with each other. Do this with each arm. Hold your fingers together in front of your chin for five seconds while slowly bringing them together. While holding the first in position, curl the other arm so that both palms face each other. Hold your fingers in front of your chin for five seconds as well.
  6. Forearm pull: Slowly bring your elbows toward your knees while standing with your hands on your thighs so that your arms are parallel to the ground. After holding for five seconds, slowly return to your original position.
  7. Forearm twist: When your elbows are by your sides, and your palms are facing down, twist one forearm inward while your other arm is neatly aligned with it. As well as twisting it in a straight line, hold it in the opposite direction. If desired, repeat this motion.
RELATED:  How Much Water Should You Drink While Kayaking?

Tennis elbow: best practices for pain relief

The following list is a compilation of exercises and stretches that you can use to help relieve the pain associated with tennis elbow.

  • Wrist turn is one of the exercises that is used to help reduce pain and improve movement.
  • Wrist turn with weight is a variation of the wrist turns that is used for strengthening.
  • An elbow bend is a simple stretch that helps to alleviate pain and restore movement.
  • Wrist extensor stretch is another effortless but effective stretch.
  • Wrist extensor flex is a variation of the stretch above, which can also be performed as an isometric exercise.
  • Fist squeeze is a simple isometric exercise that you can use to help relieve pain.
  • Towel twist is another isometric exercise that you can use to help relieve pain.
Group of kayakers enjoying a great view of nature, one of them kayaking with tennis elbow

Severe arm pain after kayaking

Since kayaking is a strenuous activity, it is not surprising to feel sore afterward.

What are some kayaking techniques that could help?

You may have a hard time driving your stroke with your legs and core if you have a problem with deep paddling.

One way to improve this issue while avoiding further pain in your arm muscles or ligaments is to do a dryland isometric drill. Place both hands on the ground, one hand far behind the other, and push down as hard as you can for 30 seconds.

Another way to fix this problem is to practice your stroke by using your whole body for power and minimizing pain in one arm or hand. Try paddling with only your right arm. Use your left leg as an anchor point on top of the kayak. Your left arm is in the water behind you.

RELATED:  Pelican Brume 100XP Kayak Review

To prevent injury and build up strength for the shoulder, strengthening exercises also need to be performed in addition to general conditioning that contributes to power generation. Resistance tubing can be used to do a reverse fly or seated row. A BOSU or exercise ball should be anchored to one end of the belt, and a door or chair should be anchored to the other.

Forearm pain after kayaking

It is normal to have forearm pain after kayaking, especially if you are a beginner. Kayaking is a pleasant activity that is healthy for your body and helps relax the mind.

It is mostly from using your fingers more than usual. The muscles that control your fingers are actually in your forearms. They get used quite a bit when you paddle around or do any other activities associated with kayaking.

The great news is that you can do some easy things to prevent or ease the pain. Beginners tend to way overgrip, holding onto their paddle too tight and for more extended periods than necessary.

You only need to hold on tightly enough so it doesn’t slip out of your hand; any more pressure is too much.

The more you kayak, the stronger your finger muscles will become, and they’ll also learn to use less grip, so there is less strain on those forearms.

You can also try doing some stretches before or after a day of paddling- even once your body gets used to it, it is still a wise idea to keep up with the stretches.


Is kayaking bad for tennis elbow? It is a question that is often asked by people who enjoy both sports. The answer to the question is not straightforward, but you can take some simple steps to ensure your risk of developing tennis elbow is significantly reduced.

If you are looking at kayaking as an alternative sport or need protection from the cold, you can use a hand-warmer or wear gloves. If kayaking is your only sport, wearing padded elbow sleeves is recommended, and the cold is not an issue.

The simple answer is that it depends on your grip on both hands when paddling.

  • Top hand – you can have the paddle in your palm and fingers out doing a “high five”!
  • Zero grips on the top hand.
  • Bottom hand – can curl the fingertips over the shaft, and it’s not really “gripping.”

If your risk is higher than average for developing tennis elbow, then wearing gloves or padded sleeves is advised to reduce pain when kayaking.

Last updated on June 19, 2022 by Duncan Barrett

Leave a Comment