Summer vacation is on all of our minds! The excitement of warm weather and the well-needed break from school or work is upon us. As the last school bell rings or the final confirmation of your travel plans arrives, make sure to add these simple tips, so you can enjoy the most of your vacation without singing the back pain blues.
Top Tips For Traveling:
Travel should be looked on as a form of strenuous exercise that requires a period of warming up and cooling down. Warm up and stretch before you travel, and cool down with a brisk walk when you arrive to reinvigorate your hamstring and calf muscles.
Here are a few more top tips to incorporate:
Traveling in any mode of transport can be physically demanding. Even if the final destination is a luxury holiday, getting there can leave you tired, stressed and in pain.
High Altitude Travel
With air travel, the distance is not the problem as much as sitting down for too long in a pressurized cabin. This combination can cause significant problems for the body. No matter how comfortable the seat or surroundings, pressure builds up in the blood vessels of the lower legs and as the blood becomes more sluggish blood flow is restricted. This build up pressure and reduced blood flow are why some people experience DVTs on long-haul flights. To help reverse the effects, contract and relax the muscles in your legs to help the blood flow better. Outstretch your legs as much as possible and point and flex your feet. Otherwise, take a lap or two up the aisle if possible.
More tips to help avoid back pain while using airline travel:
- Airline seats are incredibly spine-unfriendly. Stand up straight, familiarize yourself with the normal curve of your spine, then use rolled-up towels to recreate that curve when sitting down. Use another between your neck and the headrest.
- Bags heavier than 5-10% of your body weight should ideally be checked in rather than carried on. Lifting heavy bags into overhead lockers can damage the spine. Whatever the weight of the bag, make sure you stand directly in front of the compartment and do not twist your back or neck when lifting.
- Under seat luggage should not be forced in using feet or hands while standing, which can cause muscle spasms given the confined and awkward space between the seats. Instead, sit down first, then push it in using both your hands and/or feet.
- Move about in your seat frequently to keep the blood flowing and guard against cramps. Massage your thighs and calves, then push up with your toes to shift your knees up and down. Use a bag to raise your feet higher.
- Don’t blast yourself with the overhead air vents which can cause your neck and shoulders to tense.
Road Trip Tips!
- If you are driving, adjust the seat so you’re as close to the wheel as you can be while still feeling comfortable. Keep the knees just a little bit above the hips.
- Use a back support if the seat does not provide adequate support by design. This will help reduce the risk of lower back pain and injury. The support should be widest between the lowest ribs and the waist.
- Exercise your legs while driving to keep the blood flowing and limit any swelling or pain. Count to 10 while spreading your toes wide; count to 5 while tightening your calf muscles, followed by your thigh muscles, then your glutes (butt); roll your shoulders back and forward (keeping your hands on the wheel!).
- Alternate holding the wheel with your hands at the 2 and 7 o’clock positions, and then the 10 and 5 o’clock positions.
- Try not to grip the wheel too tightly, which reduces the circulation and increase fatigue in the muscles of the hands, wrists and arms.
- Vary your focal point to reduce eye strain and headaches, but keep your eyes on the road.
- Take frequent breaks from driving; remember that fatigue behind the wheel can kill.
Plan For Success
For ultimate travel success, plan ahead and schedule a spinal examination and address underlying issues that may be aggravated by the journey of your holiday. Our fantastic team is just a simple call away and ready to have you jump into your well-earned break!
For Your Health,
Dr. Steven M. Gillis