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Can Rowing Cause Bursitis?

Can rowing cause bursitis

Hi friends. Today I would like to discuss a painful subject—bursitis.

I know many of you are thinking, “That’s for old folks, right?” While it’s true that bursitis does affect a great many older (over 40) folks, the truth is that it can happen at any age.

Can your rowing machine cause you bursitis? That depends on several factors, which I will explain in a bit more detail, but here’s the quick answer—

“The most common cause of bursitis is overuse, which can happen if you’re rowing for too long or for too many days without rest. Therefore it is not rowing itself that causes bursitis—it’s the excessive way that you do it.”

This is true not only for rowing but also for other repetitive motions and physical activities. Accidents can also cause bursitis.

Take a load off and get ready to find out how bursitis pain could affect your rowing activity and what you can do to stop the pain.

Let me say right upfront that I am not a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, or any type of health care professional.

What I am about to tell you should in no way be considered medical advice. This is more about friends exchanging information and helping each other deal with a condition.

What Is Bursitis and How Do You Know You Have It?

bursitis can affect different parts of the body

Every joint in your body has small sacs filled with fluid that acts like a cushion for the bones and tendons.

Due to injury or inflammation, these sacs can become inflamed and cause some pretty intense pain.

Sometimes, injuries (such as a fall or a car accident) can cause the bursae sacs to become inflamed. Other times, overuse injuries or improper rowing form can cause excessive pain in these areas.

The most common rowing injuries are bursitis and tendonitis which often occur in the shoulders, knees, and hips.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t get bursitis in your wrists and ankles, but the shoulders, hips, and knees are the most common for those who love to row.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between tendonitis and bursitis since the symptoms are very similar. You can always visit your doctor or physical therapist, but in the end, the recovery options are going to be the same.

You will find that if the bursitis is close to the outside of the body, you will see more swelling and redness than you would with tendonitis.

Does Bursitis Affect the Muscles?

Not directly, no.

Bursitis flareups, which is when the pain of bursitis comes and goes frequently or with some regularity, can cause muscle atrophy since you need to rest the affected area more than you can work the muscle.

It’s a good idea to have your doctor do a complete physical exam and see if you are suffering from tendonitis, arthritis, bursitis, or some other problem, such as a frozen shoulder, rotator cuff damage, or irritation of the iliotibial band.

Can You Have Arthritis and Bursitis at the Same Time?

Arthritis and Bursitis can cause pain to various joints of the body

Unfortunately, yes, you can.

In fact, if you already have arthritis, whether it’s RA or OA, you are already at a greater risk for developing bursitis. The same is true if you suffer from episodes of gout.

This is yet another reason why you should consult with a medical doctor first to be sure that you are treating the proper condition or conditions if you have more than one.

What Causes Bursitis?

The most common cause of bursitis or tendonitis is overuse. This means that you are rowing for too long or for too many days without rest.

Any type of repetitive motion, including rowing, can lead to inflammation, shoulder pain, hip pain, or knee pain.

You should always give your body at least one day of complete rest. It’s also a very good idea to cross-train to avoid these types of injuries.

For example, you might want to consider rowing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then go swimming on Tuesday and Thursday, rest on Saturday, then do yoga or weight training on Sunday.

This is just an example of how you can exercise your body in different ways so that the muscles in both the upper body and lower body move differently.

Cross-training and allowing your body to rest at least one day per week is the best way to prevent injuries.

Should You Row If You Have Bursitis?

Should You Row If You Have Bursitis

This is another answer that you won’t like, but no, you should stop for a short time.

Ask your doctor or physical therapist how long you should rest the affected area. For the majority of people, you will need 6 weeks of complete rest (perhaps longer), followed by some short workouts on your rowing machine.

You should also consider doing some physical therapy while you heal. Ask the therapist about ways that you can row to prevent inflammation and overuse injuries, as well as ways to strengthen the problem area (such as the hips or shoulders) so you can avoid this issue again.

If your bursitis was caused by an accident, such as a fall or crashing your bicycle, you will really need to rest the affected area at least until the pain subsides.

You might also ask your physical therapist if you can do some other forms of exercise while you wait for your body to heal.

I once had an accident while weightlifting where I developed tendonitis in my elbow. This prevented me from rowing, obviously, but it didn’t stop me from running on my treadmill.

Repetitive motions are the most common rowing injuries, so mix up your workout routine! This is the best injury prevention method I know of.

How to Stop Bursitis Pain

It’s the most common answer to injuries that no one wants to hear.

How to Stop Bursitis Pain

Use the RICE method.

  • Rest the affected area.
  • Ice the area if you feel pain (use warm, moist heat if the area is stiff).
  • Compression. This means wrapping the area if possible for better shoulder stabilization and to prevent swelling (However, this is nearly impossible to do with hip bursitis).
  • Elevate the area. This is easy to do for the knees, but not so much for the shoulders.

If your bursitis or tendonitis is due to repeated motions from your rowing machine, you really will need to take a break from rowing and get in some good physical therapy.

The Bottom Line

I know that for those of you who are passionate about rowing, hearing someone say that you’ll have to stop for a few weeks is not what you want to hear, but it’s true.

Don’t take my word for it, contact your medical professional, and they will tell you the same thing.

RICE that bursitis and you will live to row another day!

Stay happy, friends, even if you can’t row right now.