If you fish for bass long enough you will get certain common injuries. Probably the most common is Fishing Elbow (Golfers and Tennis Elbow). Other common injuries or pains associated with bass fishing are back pain, shoulder pain, and forearm pain. Most of these injuries are caused by nothing more than repetitive motion or standing all day. An angler that flips or pitches repeatedly will have wrist and forearm pain, conversely an angler that rips rattle traps or cranks ledges a lot is going to suffer shoulder pain eventually. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced all of these over the years and as I get older I find more and more places that pain simply develops, no accident, no specific injury; pain just starts happening. With a few visits to a physical therapist and an orthopedic surgeon, I’ve learned a trick or two that can help prevent these pains and injuries.
Tennis Elbow is a sharp pain on the outside of your elbow joint and Golfers Elbow is a pain on the inside of your elbow joint. The exact location of pain differs from angler to angler, based on your exact casting or pitching motion. Small tears in the tendon that connects to your elbow develop over time. These tears heal very slowly. Fishing, every couple days, will prevent them from healing, and they slowly get larger and larger until all of a sudden you feel a sharp pain. Once you feel this pain, it’s too late, you’re in for a long road to recovery. Even longer if you can’t put the fishing rod down for two to three months; not weeks, months.
To relieve the pain associated with Fishing Elbow start with anti inflammatory medications. Everyone is different as to which medication works best. I respond well to Motrin, but Advil, Aleve, or one of the other over the counter medications may work better for you. When my Fishing Elbow flares up, heat is very effective in relieving pain. Some anglers respond better to cold; it will be something you have to test and see which works better. I spoke with a physical therapist about the heat versus cold concepts, and she said that alternating between the two is actually the best way. Use cold to reduce swelling of the tendon conversely use heat to draw blood to the injury to promote healing. I personally have not felt much relief from cold packs; however, a heating pad does wonders.
To prevent Fishing Elbow simply Google Tennis Elbow. You’ll find a variety of exercises that have been proven effective at preventing or reducing damage from Fishing Elbow. I have learned that if each morning I take the time to perform a series of stretching exercises, I greatly reduce pains associated with bass fishing. For my elbow, I simply hold my arm straight out in front of me, with my finger tips pointed at the ground, and use my opposite hand to pull against the back of my hand that’s pointing at the ground. Next, rotate your hand pointing your finger tips to the ceiling, and again pull against it. This stretches your forearm muscles and tendons. By stretching, you are also effectively lubricating them as well, which allows them to slide and move properly preventing the tears that cause pain.
Shoulder pain is a lot more complex than Fishing Elbow. There are a tremendous amount of tendons, muscles, and ligaments involved with keeping your shoulder in socket. The list of possible injuries to the shoulder joint is endless. I have had surgical repair performed on my right shoulder. While it was very effective for about 3 years, the down time and physical therapy afterwards was unbearable. There were times I thought the physical therapy was going to tear apart what the surgeon had just repaired. However, after it was all said and done I felt as if I had a brand new shoulder. Over the next three years, I took the repair for granted and didn’t perform the exercises I had been taught and the pain returned. Not wanting to go through the surgery again, I slowly started performing the stretching exercises to see if I could remedy the pain on my own. It took a while, but I have greatly reduced the pain. Hopefully over time I’ll be pain free in my shoulder again. There are two very simple exercises that help greatly and only take a few minutes. First is to rotate your arm around in a 360 degree rotation, trying to max out your reach from straight down, too out in front of you, then over your head and finally behind you. The reach behind you is the one that will give the greatest pull, and in the beginning take it easy on your shoulder until you build up some range of motion. The next exercise you’re going to feel pretty good. Take a rag and throw one end of it over your opposite shoulder, reach behind your back with the arm that you want to stretch the shoulder on and grab the rag. With your other arm pull the rag over your head stretching the effected shoulder. Again, in the beginning take it easy on this exercise as it can really get painful in a hurry. You can also use your favorite search engine and the internet to find all kinds of different exercises for your shoulder to improve range of motion.
Tendonitis along the forearm is normally felt as a radiating pain or burning sensation that runs across the top of your arm between your elbow and wrist. This form of tendonitis is common in anglers that have already had Fishing Elbow and are now compensating with the use of their forearm through a change in casting or pitching tactics. This is very frustrating, just as you think you’ve found a way to control one pain; it created another. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done for tendonitis in the forearm except, immobilization. Down time is the prescription, either take a break or it’s going to hurt. Fortunately, this one is not as severe as a joint tendonitis and will only take a week to ten days to correct. You can use heat and cold to help the healing process along.
More bass anglers suffer from back pain than any other problem. Probably from the hours of standing on the front deck with improper posture and fighting waves; these two create fatigue that turns into pain. One of the best things I ever did to help my back was have a trolling motor pedal recess installed. This above anything I could do improved my posture while fishing. On long days out on the water, this improved posture prevented fatigue and prevented pain. Other things that help me manage my back pain are core body strengthening, walking, and stretching. I have a combined routine that has helped me over the years to the point that on a normal day of fishing I am almost pain free in my lower back. Crunches, leg lifts, and pushups have helped my core body strength. Nothing extravagant just a few a couple times a week will help tremendously. Walking, the simplest thing you can do, will help improve your stability and strengthen your hip and leg muscles allowing them to help support you better through the day. Stretching has also had huge benefits. There are a multitude of possible stretches and each designed to help with different regions of the lower back. I would recommend seeing a physical therapist before deciding on a stretching regimen, to ensure you are working the areas that are going to benefit you the most.
Bottom line, as you get older your tendons don’t work as well, you have to start stretching before the pain, to prevent it. Every angler I know that is 40 years old or more has pain. If you’re not in pain now, don’t wait, build a stretching program and use it. Hopefully, you’ll never know how important it is because you didn’t learn what these pains are. Learn from what all the anglers around the country are saying; bass fishing has injuries. However, most of these injuries are preventable if you start early. It’s hard to believe when your 25 years of age, that by the time your 40, a simple pitch to an overhanging tree can hurt, but it will if you don’t take preventative measures now.
When I was twenty I could fish all day and be slightly tired. When I was thirty I’d get tired, but a little nap and I was ready to go again. Now that I’m forty, there is a healing process, not just a recovery time. Stretching, exercising, and staying very hydrated seem to help with pain associated with fishing.
I need to say that I am not a doctor, physical therapist, or nurse. I have no medical background other than being worked on a lot. The information in this article is solely based on my experiences and information given to me by members of the medical field. You should always consult your family doctor before taking on an exercise regimen.
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