Fishing season is upon us! Perhaps you fish in a remote mountain lake or deep-sea fish off the nearest coast. Maybe you keep things simple and cast a line after work in the local pond. Whatever your brand of angling, the repetitive casting and reeling of fishing demands a lot from your wrists, so it’s not surprising that wrist pain is a common complaint among those who enjoy fishing. If you suffer from wrist arthritis, you may feel like your angling days are over, but not so quick! There are things you can do to fish more comfortably, even if you suffer from arthritis.
First a little about the wrist: it is one of the most complex joints in the body, and is actually composed of three separate joints. Ten bones, (if you include the two additional bones that extend from the forearm), ligaments, tendons, and cartilage complete its design. Although it’s not a weight-bearing joint, the wrist is used in countless daily activities, which makes it vulnerable to injury and arthritis. About one in seven people in the U.S. suffer from wrist arthritis.
Stretching is always important. One of the first ways to reduce your chance of wrist pain from fishing is to do some stretching and strengthening wrist exercises beforehand. Here are some exercises that target the wrist, hand, and fingers.
Next, once you’re out on the water, there are a few things to keep in mind. A 2020 study in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine looked at the fishing styles of 162 North American recreational fly-fishers and how those styles relate to injury and soreness. The study found that moderate pain in the shoulder, arm, elbow, and wrist is fairly common — with more than one-third of respondents reporting discomfort anywhere from a few hours to up to a week after fishing.
The study concludes that the most effective ways to reduce injury or soreness is to
adjust how you grip your pole and your casting technique. Grasping the pole with a neutral hand position vs. an inner rotation reduced the risk of injury. Moreover, those who cast in an elliptical/sidearm fashion reported more injuries and pain. People who used an overhead or two-handed casting style fared better.
There are also fishing rods like this one designed especially for people with arthritis. It has a thicker handle, which makes it easier to hold. If you choose to eat your catch, there are additional benefits. Adding fish to your diet can help reduce inflammation which can reduce arthritic symptoms.
If your day of fishing leads to pain later, consider conservative measures such as rest, a splint or brace, and over-the-counter pain medication before heading back out for your next catch. If the pain persists, consider seeing an arthritis specialist. Use our Find a Doctor tool to locate an expert in your area.