Buckle up, our traveling season is upon us. Despite the saying “getting there is half the fun”, planes, trains, and automobiles can put a real strain on our holiday fun this season. So let’s start this season off right, and follow these tips to survive the physically demanding prospect of traveling to your holiday destination even if your final destination is to just relax.
Travel should be looked on as a form of strenuous exercise that requires a period of warming up and cooling down. Warmup and stretch before you travel, and cool down with a brisk walk when you arrive to reinvigorate your hamstring and calf muscles.
- Seat Comfort: Adjust the seat so you are as close to the wheel as you can be while still feeling comfortable. Keep your knees just a little bit above the hips.
- Back Support: Use a back support if the seat does not provide adequate support by design. A lumbar support will help reduce the risk of lower back pain and injury. A proper fitting support should be widest between the lowest ribs and the waist.
- Keep Alert and Avoid Stiffness: Exercise your legs while driving to keep the blood flowing and limit any swelling or pain. We recommend counting to 10 while spreading your toes wide then counting to 5 while tightening your calf muscles. Follow this process with each of mucsle groups including your thigh muscles and your glutes (butt). Don’t forget to roll your shoulders back and forward (keeping your hands on the wheel!) along with stretching your neck.
- 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.
- Avoid Vice Grip: Try not to grip the wheel too tightly. The vice grip will reduce your circulation and increase fatigue in the muscles of your hands, wrists and arms.
- Look Around: Vary your focal point to reduce eye strain and headaches, but keep your eyes on the road and don’t you dare text!
- Rest Stops: Take frequent breaks from driving; remember that fatigue behind the wheel can be extremely dangerous.
- Onboard Luggage: Bags that are heavier than 5-10% of your body weight should ideally be checked in rather than carried on. But sometimes the added price out weighs back safety, so if lifting heavy bags into overhead compartments make sure you stand directly in front of the overhead and do not stretch or twist your back or neck when lifting.
- Another Luggage Space to Fill: Under the 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 feet.
- Now the Ergonomically Incorrect Seats: Airline seats are incredibly spine-unfriendly. Our suggestion for long haul air travelers is that when you are investing in a neck roll to also invest in a lumbar roll. Can’t find one? Grab a small hand towel that you can roll and place in the small of your lower back.
- Keep It Moving: While traveling move about in your seat frequently to keep the blood flowing and guard against cramps and pins and needles. 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.
- Air Flow: Don’t blast yourself with the overhead air vents which can cause your neck and shoulders to tense.
Car Seats and Kids:
- Use an approved car seat appropriate to the age of the child when traveling in a car.
- Infant car seats should always face rearwards so that any impact is spread around the back and shoulders and not taken directly by the neck.
- A car seat should not be used in the front seat of a car where an airbag could deploy into it. Similarly, if the rear doors or the rear of the front seats are equipped with airbags, position the child seat in the center of the rear seat to avoid it being hit by any of them.
- Secure the car seat as per instructions and make sure it is properly fixed in place and cannot shift. The seat should be at a 45-degree angle to properly support the child’s head.
- Traveling by air, take your FAA approved car seat. Small children will be safer in a car seat rather than your lap. Your back will also thank you.
Get Bonus Miles
Before you head out to your travel destination, this season make sure to add a spinal health checkup to your list of preparations! We will make sure you are in tip-top condition so you may enjoy every minute of your holiday!
For Your Health,
Dr. Steven M. Gillis