Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

General discussions about getting and staying fit that don't relate directly to your indoor rower

Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby zeekland » October 21st, 2017, 12:09 pm

So I've been wanting to get back into shape for a while now but a little over a year ago (14-15 months) I fractured and herniated my L3 disc in a skid loader mishap, it took me a month or so before I could get into a chiropractor and pop it back in (just bought a house and had very little $$$ left over), was a pretty agonizing experience to say the least to work in that state. Anyways, my back is feeling much better now but it still bothers me on and off, mostly if I get bounced around a lot (like 4 hours mowing my 10 acre plot on a zero turn for example or when I'm using a skid loader), when I'm not doing those things my back feels pretty much normal. I go to a chiropractor every 6-8 weeks for an adjustment just to keep things in alignment or if I notice my back starts to tighten up (again mainly from using machines that bounce me around).


I was curious if rowing could perhaps strengthen my lower back (if done with proper form) or if it would cause more problems? Thank you.
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Re: Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby hjs » October 21st, 2017, 4:02 pm

To begin with, I have back trouble, going on for almost forty years, broke my back during a fall. So talk from experience.
Troube ranged from very bad to modest, I am never painfree. Also been operated on around my 30 ies, which was not a succes. Now 50.

Backtrouble gets better from using our back, overuse will give extra trouble at times. I, at times, certainly overuse my back. Reason being, I like training, but not just for fitness/health. I do not find this wise, but tell it like it is.

If you want to row for your health, I think erging could help, combined with other things. Use a low drag, keep the efforts way below max, do not sprint on the erg. I find training that way, super boring, but healthwise for your back that could work. Go by feel, if it feels bad, it will hurt. So make it feel good.
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Re: Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby Parky » October 22nd, 2017, 6:02 am

From a Yorkshireman, sell the house, sell the plot, sell the skid loader, move into an apartment with a gym facility and with what cash is left over, get the disc popped back in. Simple. You'll then be able to row for madness - sorry - fitness. :wink:
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Re: Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby Dangerscouse » October 22nd, 2017, 2:50 pm

Zeekland, HJS has given good advice but I found my lower back to be an issue as I let my hip flexors get too tight so I had regular trips to the chiro too.

I now.regularly do hip flexor stretches followed by 'spider man' stretch sometimes referred to as the greatest stretch in the world. I quite often hear a click or two and my back feels better. Not sure if that will help you but it's a great stretch for rowers as the hip flexors get tight from too much sitting and contraction
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Re: Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby left coaster » October 22nd, 2017, 4:26 pm

+1 on hip flexor maintenance!

I let mine get so tight once the left one went into spasm, a completely unnecessary outcome...

I work at a desk and was also studying nights at the time, spent way too much time with the legs 90 degrees to my body. I was also getting quite a bit of lower back pain at the time when going for walks and hikes. After educating myself the reason was obvious, at the time it didn't seem so.

Since starting rowing, and a regular routine of breaking up my sitting time with stretches and movement, thing have improved and I've never had another flexor spasm. I don't get lower back pain during walks or hikes anymore either -- if I feel a bit coming on stretching resolves it in short order.

If you're spending a lot of time driving machinery it may be the combination of being in a seated position and the impacts that is the problem. I expect you need to exert some postural tension to keep your body stable, which may involve the hip flexors. Over time they shorten and create imbalances in the lower back that can lead to serious issues.
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Re: Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby zeekland » October 22nd, 2017, 6:20 pm

@HJS
It's good to see a reply from someone in a similar situation, had no idea how fragile my back was until that day. I went to the local academy and played on their machines today, not a concept BUT my knees/hips don't pop during usage and my back felt pretty good all things considered, going to take a chance and buy a model D, worst case I can make most of my money back if things go south and it hurts my back later down.

@Parky
Noooooo.....living that close to people would be my own personal hell on Earth, quite happy being out in the sticks away from society, can always make my own gym :P Disc is popped back in almost a year now so now I just gotta recover. Nice thing is next spring I'm quitting this job, no more skid loader or 20-30 hours weekly on a machine thrashing me around. I will only have my usual 3-4 hours a week up keeping my acreage, which will decrease once I get cows in my fields (cut it down by almost half)

@Dangerscouse
Yeah and I'm not a stretcher, I did some back/leg stretches last night and I believe fully that I need a full body stretching routine. I wanted to find a full body stretching routine that takes 15-20 minutes, something I could do before rowing and get me ready for work. I will start waking up a tad earlier to put all of this into my regime. You by chance have a website for all those or perhaps a basic yoga site without the spiritual aspect?

The best pose I have had for my back is the ELDOA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3Uv8tcjRzQ

When done right I can feel my spine separate and feel pops all the way up my spine. I do it when my back really starts to bother me and it really helps.

@ left coaster
I will look up some videos on it, after last night I believe fully I need to start stretching more, I can sit on a machine for 20-30 hours and when I'm done with chores I plop into my recliner or computer chair for an hour or two, nothing that is helping if that's my issue.


Thanks again for all the advice guys, if you happen to know a good full body stretch routine I would much appreciate it as well.
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Re: Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby Steve1960VA » October 24th, 2017, 12:11 pm

I think I've told my back pain story before, here, so I won't do it again, but I will say that when I had serious lower back pain (including sciatica) my physician directed me to a book written by Robin McKenzie, a physical therapist (or something of the sort) from New Zealand. Book (a rather brief one) is titled "Treat your own back". It includes sketches and descriptions of several very simple stretching-type motions / positions. Got my copy(s) from Amazon, I think.

A few weeks of following what was suggested in this book, after I was slowly able to improve myself enough to be able to do the exercises, really helped me, and no notable pain ever since (zero now).

Mr. McKenzie also authored a book titled "Treat your own neck" (I have that one too), and perhaps other, similar / related brief books.

I'm sure there's not a "one size fits all", for problems of this sort, but this might be worth at least considering.

I have no medical training and I recommend you follow the advice of a medical professional.
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Re: Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby Dangerscouse » October 25th, 2017, 4:59 am

https://youtu.be/nPHfEnZD1Wk

@ Zeekland this is a good video of a lot of stretches, but I'd make sure that you do them slowly and controlled. You might do more harm than good going too fast
44 Years Old; 6' 4"; 92kg; Liverpool, England 2k= 6'45; 5k= 17'46; 10k= 36'21 60mins= 16,317m HM= 1'19" 31; FM= 2'49"39; 50k= 3'28"18; 75k=5:29:15; 100k= TBC; 12 Hours= TBC

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Re: Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby sekitori » October 25th, 2017, 12:16 pm

I have chronic moderate soreness of my right hip flexor and I know exactly what the cause is. It's an overuse injury due to rowing an hour a day, six days a week, for close to twenty years. I first noticed it about ten years ago and although it's annoying, it hasn't become worse and hasn't had much of an effect on any of my other activities. I try to keep it as loose as possible through yoga stretches and they seem to help. I have never sought medical attention for this condition because I'm absolutely certain that the advice I receive would be to stop rowing. If I stopped rowing for an extended period of time, I'm sure the soreness would decrease considerably. But since that would mean giving up an activity that's keeping me (in all other respects) healthier than I've ever been, I'll continue my present rowing routine. As long as the discomfort remains at this level--and for the past ten years, it hasn't increased, I can live with it.
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Re: Rowing and Lower Back Issues?

Postby strider » October 31st, 2017, 10:32 pm

This has to do with hip flexor, not low back or disc.

I tore my right hip flexor many years ago, and it healed somewhat well, but still nagged at me for 20 years.
I finally got the thing much better thanks to a coach at a running shoe store. Testing a pair of shoes, running outside, he noticed I did not kick up my right foot as high as the left foot. This caused extra work of the hip flexor in swinging the right leg forward for the next step. Now, running or walking at least, if the hip flexor begins to hurt, I am usually starting to lower the right foot, and adding work for the right side hip flexor. I kick the foot up a bit more, and the pain disappears. In time, my gait has re-balanced correctly, and the pain there is now extremely rare.

It may be that rowing, those of you with one sore hip flexor may be overusing one side to draw yourself forward. You may want to try to balance that. Also, consider both more long slow stretches, plus strengthening in a greater range of motion with leg swings, knee-ups with an ankle weight, or light resistance band. But pain to one side is sometimes muscle imbalance related, or overuse, not just "the way it is".

Plus if it hurts after a workout, use an ice pack off and on. The ice pack will reduce inflammation temporarily, and reduce spread of injury to nearby tissue. Re-warming will increase circulation. One can even alternate gentle warming, then cool it again. But GENTLE cooling, and warming. You are trying to stimulate circulation, not trying to roast meat, or freeze it. If it hurts to walk with the hip flexor sore, one can even use an elastic bandage to take part of the load off lifting the leg while you go through the healing process.

Give yourself a week off may be enough, too. If training as hard as many of you do, a week off will allow full recovery from any minor nagging injuries, and actually leave you stronger and thoroughly rested. Ready for a new PB. Heavy weightlifting under 40 recommends 48 hours recovery. Over 50, 72 hours recovery time.
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