Common Rowing Machine Injuries & How to Prevent Them

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common rowing machine injuries & how to prevent them

Rowing is one of the best ways to get in shape and have fun doing it. Unfortunately, rowing injuries can be common, even among professionals.

Injuries aren’t unique to rowing; they can happen with any sport or game. The trick is to know how you got injured so you can avoid it in the future.

Better yet, let’s talk about the common rowing injuries so we can simply avoid getting hurt in the first place. Great idea, don’t you think?

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OK, so even if you’ve never been injured before, this article is still relevant since you can use the information here to avoid getting hurt to start with.

Let’s talk about injuries, pain, and how to prevent them, but before I begin, let me say that I am not a doctor, and this should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a health professional and seek prompt treatment if you experience pain, or if your pain gradually worsens or happens more frequently. This is just general advice among friends.

Is Rowing Injury Prone?

For the inexperienced, yes.

Let’s face it, most exercise machines are fairly straightforward to use You hop on and pedal a stationary bike, walk/run on a treadmill, or climb the stairs.

man learning about how to prevent injuries from rowing machine at the gym

Rowing, however, needs the proper form when used to avoid injuries. While there are always overuse injuries, most injuries happen due to poor form or poor posture while rowing.

So, if you want to think of rowing as being injury prone, you can, but when you do the strokes in a relatively safe form, you’ll realize that rowing is no more dangerous than walking.

The Top 5 Most Common Rowing Injuries

While you can injure yourself by falling as you get on or off your rowing machine, there are 5 injuries that tend to be at the top of the list, including:

1. Lower Back Pain

Sometimes called lumbar back pain, this is the most common rowing injury and it is often caused by poor technique and/or poor posture. Sometimes, lower back pain can be a sign of other problems, such as disc degeneration or herniated discs.

lady suffering from rowing machine back injury

You can avoid low back pain and muscle strains by practicing proper rowing technique. Take a class on rowing or watch online videos while you watch yourself row using a mirror.

You can also make your spine less susceptible to injury by strengthening the muscles supporting the spine, including the core muscles, and staying flexible through sustained stretches. Back injuries due to other issues, such as spinal stenosis, should be examined by a health professional.

2. Rib Stress Fractures

Wow. That sounds scary, doesn’t it? Stress fractures are microscopic in nature, and this injury often occurs in professional rowers. This isn’t as serious as it sounds, but it can cause chest pain.

man suffering from rowing machine lower back injury

To avoid a stress fracture in the ribs, rowers should avoid intense training that involves load lifting. Cross-training should also be incorporated as an overall part of a fitness routine.

3. Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome

Often called ITB friction syndrome, this involves the IT band, which is a type of connective tissue that connects the pelvis to the tibia. This band runs across the knee, which helps to keep the knee more stable, but the band can be irritated by frequent bending of the knee.

man in pain from rowing machine knee injury

Further injuries of this type can be avoided by paying attention to leg posture while rowing and adding targeted stretches and flexibility training.  I’ve had this and it is painful but with the correct attention to your posture and form, this can be rectified.

4. Extensor Tenosynovitis of the Wrist

There’s another big set of words! Soft tissue injuries such as this mean that ligament sprains or tendon strains have severe inflammation. This is sometimes due to overuse, but in other instances, the tendon sheath has become damaged due to injury.

man suffering from rowing machine wrist injury

This type of injury often occurs when the wrists and forearms are cold. Keep the wrists covered while exercising. Ice applied to the area can help reduce inflammation. If the problem persists, you will need to take a few weeks to rest, use some anti-inflammatory medication, and stop rowing to relieve pain and let healing occur.

5. Shoulder Impingement

This can occur because of several reasons, including trauma, overuse, or mechanical injury.  Due to the way rowing strokes are performed, the space between the acromion and rotator cuff of the shoulder becomes tighter and smaller. This creates an impingement of the bicep tendon and bursa, causing pain.

male in pain from rowing machine shoulder injury

Shoulder impingement is often caused by overuse, so rest is usually the best way to heal, but this can also be avoided by strengthening the rotator cuff, shoulders, and core muscles that support the shoulder blades.

That was a whole lot of medical jargon, right? I hope I didn’t get too technical, and that this information was helpful.

Can You Hurt Your Back on a Rowing Machine?

You can hurt your back by doing nothing more than slouching and watching TV, so I imagine that you can also hurt your back, but there’s a reason why.

man exercising correctly to prevent a bad rowing machine injury

Most back pain when rowing is caused by poor technique and/or weak core muscles.

Practice the proper form to avoid muscle strains in the back. You can use rowing to firm up weak core muscles or do other types of exercise to strengthen those core muscles.

Can Rowing Hurt Your Chest or Give You Rib Stress Fractures?

We discussed rib stress fractures above. These are not common for the average home rower, but if you experience chest pain when rowing, you should seek prompt treatment to rule out other types of injury.

If you should have a stress fracture, your doctor will give you more information about how you can help your body heal more quickly.

Is a Rowing Machine Dangerous?

man feeling pain while rowing on a concept 2 rower

Dangerous as in life-threatening? No, not at all.

Dangerous as in you might become addicted to rowing? That one has a greater chance of being true! πŸ™‚

A home rowing machine is not dangerous other than you might experience some muscle fatigue. Allow yourself at least one full day of rest, ice areas that may be sore to prevent inflammation and swelling if you need to, and be sure that you are using the proper rowing technique.

Is Knee Pain While Rowing Common?

No, not usually.

In fact, rowing helps to strengthen the muscles the support the knee, providing pain relief and better movement.

man rowing correctly to prevent knee pain

If you experience knee pain, it might actually be the IT band I mentioned above. Stretching exercises that target the IT band can help.

Always be sure to practice a cool-down routine that involves stretching to prevent pain and stiff knees.

Check Out Our Top Pick Machines for Bad Knees

What Muscles Should be Sore after Rowing?

Newbies to rowing can experience soreness in the back, shoulders, and glutes.

You should find this pain more in the thicker, middle portion of the muscles and not near the joints.

This soreness should go away within 24-48 hours.

The Bottom Line

Don’t worry so much about becoming injured while rowing. As long as you focus on your rowing stroke and having the proper form, you should be fine.

As always, speak to your doctor if you have any questions and before you begin any new exercise routine.

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