Is White Water Rafting Bad for Your Back
A group of people with back problens enjoying white water rafting.

Since you’re reading these words, we’ll take a guess that either you’ve been white water rafting and experienced some back pain, or you’ve already got issues with your back and you’re wondering will the upcoming adventure just make thing worse for you. Okay, maybe you’ve ended up here solely by chance. Whatever the case – we’re sure you love this piece on whether white water rafting is bad for your back!

Also, you might be wondering where white water rafting got its name, especially the “white water” pairing since the first portion’s pretty self-explanatory. We’ll cover that moment, too. Anyway, if you’re up for some useful info and you’ve got some free time on your hands, read this text.

Generally speaking, white water rafting isn’t bad for your back. However, if you’re already experiencing some back pain or other issues, it might be best to avoid trying out this phenomenal watersport until, of course, your back gets better. That’s because all the tossing associated with the activity and unsupported seating won’t do any good to a bad back.

Is reading just the preview bad for your understanding of the subject? Unfortunately, It is. Here at Go Extreme Sports, we always suggest you read the whole thing!

Table of Contents

White water rafting 101

So, as we’ve said, we’ll dedicate a portion of this article to talking about the basics. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise you that we’ll first consider the following questions:

  • What is white water rafting? 
  • Why is it called white water rafting? 
  • What do you wear for white water rafting?
  • How to prepare for a rafting trip?

Let’s begin with the first one on the list!

What is white water rafting?

Okay, so the term we’re dealing with today represents a so-called recreational (and sometimes competitive) watersport in which an inflatable raft with 4-8 folks goes down white water rapids on a river. Even though it’s not considered an extremely demanding activity, there are varying levels of difficulty and one should be very careful while coming up with an adventure plan. Usually, beginners don’t have any options other than to find the company of experienced folks. Also, here’s some trivia: the sport known as white water rafting became pretty popular in the 1950s. It seems as though it didn’t lose an inch of its popularity ever since.

Why’s it called white water rafting?

Sorry if we’re stating the obvious, but white water rafting is called in such a manner thanks to the rapids that happen naturally throughout the stretches of a certain river. White water (or whitewater) appears as a result of turbulence in the rapids due to the fast-flowing river currents. Guess that pretty much covers the etymology of our main term for today.

What do you wear for white water rafting?

The first thing you’ll want to know is that the following stands for all watersports: dress for the water temperature instead of dressing in accordance with the air temperature forecast. It’s only natural to assume that ending up in cold water isn’t a thing you’d want to mess around with; it could lead to hypothermia, heart shock, and various other issues. Also, if the water temperature is below 70°F (21°C), you’ll want to wear a wetsuit or a dry suit and booties. If you’re going on a commercial rafting trip, there’s a good chance the provider will equip you with the necessary items (feel free to ask ’em if you’re not so sure).

Anything else?

As a matter of fact, yes. Here are some other tips on wearing the proper clothes for rafting down the river rapids:

  • Layering is key. Add a middle or a base layer to help you stay warm and dry once you get wet (and there’s no way you can avoid getting wet). Also, consider wearing a warm hat.
  • Avoid wearing cotton apparel. You’ll want to wear clothes that are made from quick-drying synthetic (such as polyester) or wool. They’ll keep you warm. Sounds a bit naive, but it works.
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device) is necessary. Basically, this is a must if we’re talking about watersports. White water rafting’s not an exception. Here’s a motto you can adopt: even the slowest places can be a bit treacherous. Therefore, be on guard with a personal floatation device!
  • Zippered pockets, anyone? No, there’s a better one. Have you ever tried pulling something out of the bottom of a not-so-slow river? We thought so. So, yeah, you’ll want to opt for zippered pockets.

We’ll take a guess and say that’s enough for the so-called intro section. Therefore, it’s time we consider the main topic of today’s text, the question of whether rafting is bad for your back. Let’s find out!

A group of friends white water rafting.

Is white water rafting bad for your back?

Okay, so let’s say you’ve got a healthy back, no issues & everything, and you’re ready to go on your first rafting adventure. You’re wondering: will this cause some problems, is there a chance that this could hurt my back? in a situation where your back’s alright and there are no issues that you know of, it’s completely fine to venture deeper into your rafting adventure. But, this all seems a bit shallow, so we’ll take a deep breath and dive deeper!

Here’s the thing: if you’ve got a weak back, a white water rafting adventure with all the tossing around mightn’t be the ideal option for you. As we’ve said, it most probably won’t be an issue for folks that don’t have back problems, but it could prove as quite of a challenge for folks who do have them. Of course, it will all depend on the length of the rafting trip and the way you’ll be seated. However, the main issue’s always there: most probably the seating configuration won’t include any back support, so you’ll be seated without it. Speaking of seating, here’s how you’ll sit inside a white water kayak.

Also, if the adventure requires you to sleep out in the open, there might be additional challenges to face. Trying to get a good night’s sleep on the bare ground might be a bit of an issue for folks that have a bad back. Let’s try to give something of a conclusion here: generally speaking, white water rafting isn’t bad for your back. However, one must keep in mind that the sport might prove to be a little challenging for folks who already have back problems.

Alright, let’s see if there’s anything else we can show before we hit the end margin of this text.

Can I go white water rafting with a bad back?

Now, as we’ve already noted, we wouldn’t recommend you try white water rafting with a bad back. However, a simple floating trip might be okay. Also, we’ll take advantage of the whole you-shouldn’t-go-white-water-rafting-if-X and tell you what most companies you’ll stumble upon suggest. Rafting isn’t recommended for folks that suffer from the following:

  • Heart/lung issues. 
  • Severe asthma. 
  • Recovery from recent surgery. 
  • Obesity. 
  • Osteoporosis. 
  • Back problems. (Obviously.)

Here’s one thing you’ll find on almost every rafting trip organizer’s website: pregnant women should, by all means, avoid going on white water rafting trips.

How to stay safe while white water rafting?

Since this whole article’s revolving around your well-being, we can’t let you leave without picking up some safety tips. Here we’ll show you some of the things you’ll need to pay attention to while enjoying this amazing watersport. Oh, since we’ve mentioned the whole amazing watersport syntagm, click here to find some info and tips on surfing.

#1 Avoid unlicensed outfitters

Trust us, you don’t want to work with an unlicensed outfitter. Basically, this one’s the most important tip you should remember. So, yeah, always work with a licensed professional that will keep you afloat. That’s because these folks have a ton of experience in white water rafting and you can tell they’re prepared for everything that might go awry, something you can’t say about unlicensed outfitters. So, yeah, just like you wouldn’t wakeboard without a spotter, don’t go white water rafting without a licensed outfitter.

#2 Practice white water swimming

Before you hit the river slopes, your rafting guide will walk you through basic white water swimming techniques. These will help you greatly if you were to fall off your boat. Anyway, make sure you pay good attention to what the guide is saying and practice the techniques. 

#3 In case something goes not the way you planned, don’t panic

We’ll be short here: stay calm! Try not to panic as that can only make things worse and only leads to unsafe scenarios.

#4 Feel free to ask your guide anything

There’s no need to feel embarrassed or something if you’re not sure about something. Don’t hesitate to ask your guide about anything that you wish to know. Being informed and ready is crucial!

#5 Show that paddle who’s the boss

Okay, that might sound a bit too much. Anyway, you’ll want to take proper control of your rafting paddle. Without such control, there are numerous unpleasant issues that can appear such as black eyes, knocked-out teeth, etc. Of course, rely on your coach/guide to show you how it’s done

For more tips on correct paddling methods, click right here.

The bottom line

Okay, so that’s about all there’s to say on the subject of white water rafting with a bad back. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reading this one as much as any other article on our blog. Click on that link for more interesting tips & info.

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