Back Pain in Rowing – What’s the Catch?

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By Adam, Physiotherapist

Rowing is a great pursuit for people of all ages. It’s great for our physical, mental and social wellbeing. It provides cardiovascular fitness and strength for the whole body. But for so many rowers, lower back pain is a problem which often keeps them off the water for long periods.

One of the most common causes of lower back pain in rowers is caused by a poor pelvic position at the “catch”. Most good coaches will preach the importance of a neutral pelvic position at the catch. In this position, the rower should have rolled their weight onto their sit bones. This will result in a neutral back or with a mild “C” shape, with no extenuation of the lower back curvature. This position becomes worse as fatigue sets in.

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Unfortunately for many rowers, especially young males, their biomechanics do not allow this optimal catch position. As a result, these rowers enter the catch position with too much Lumbar flexion – too much rounding of the lower back. This position loads the soft tissues of the lumbar spine in a way which can cause an overuse injury.

Having a really good range of motion in the hips and ankles is crucial in protecting the lower back. To achieve the desired position at the catch, a rower should be able to do a full squat without their heels lifting off the ground.

If you cannot do this, it is likely a result of:
• Immobility of the hips due to hamstring and gluteal tightness and/ or hip joint stiffness
• Immobility of the ankles due to calf tightness and /or ankle joint stiffness

If you are a rower and have been experiencing lower back pain, there will most likely be a straight forward solution to your problem.

Physiotherapists are experts in biomechanical assessment and are able to assess which factors are causing your lower back pain. At Wisdom Physiotherapy, you will find physiotherapists who have a focus on whole-body mechanics.

To make an appointment with our Physiotherapist Adam, call (08) 6389 2947 or click here to book online today.

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