Travel Healthy to avoid back and neck pain

Travel Healthy to avoid back and neck pain
Thinking about my upcoming travels for a vacation, I started to think about and dread the flight to our destination.  The seats are one size fits none.  When you are tall and in the field I am in, you think to yourself “who thought of these seats?”  The head rest sits perfectly at the back of your head so your neck is pushed forward and then you have a curved seat back that you now have to curve your back into.  Good luck in finding a pillow or blanket to put at the small of your back for support at least without having to pay for it.  I digress. 
Whether we are traveling by car to our cabin, across the country or in a plane over the big blue ocean, traveling can be more painful than pleasurable.  It is usually an after thought, because we are so excited to make our plans.  Avoiding back pain while traveling can be tricky.  Some situations do not always lend themselves to be able to avoid back pain.  But injuring or further injuring your back can be avoided if the necessary steps are taken.  
No matter how you are traveling, luggage is going to be involved.  Here are some tips on how to avoid injury while dealing with luggage. 
  •  If you have a lot of luggage, rent a push cart.  Better yet, if there is curb side check in, take advantage of it so you don’t have to handle your bags yourself. 
  • Carry your shoulder bag on alternate shoulders to distribute the weight evenly and decreasing stressors on the back.
  • Always, always bend at the knees when picking up your luggage and avoid twisting while carrying your luggage.

Now comes the traveling itself.  Planes, trains and automobiles can certainly be a challenge.  No matter what mode of transportation you take, you will probably be sitting for long periods of time.  Here are ways you can prevent neck and back pain during that time.

  • Try and use a lumbar support for your low back.  Place a small pillow or even a sweater or blanket in a pinch at the small of your back.  This will help maintain good posture while sitting.
  • Use a neck pillow when resting or sleeping to avoid neck strain.
  • Try and get up and move around as frequently as possible.  Sitting too long can stiffen up your muscles and places stress on your spine.
What if, despite your best efforts, you have a flare up of neck or back pain?  There are a few things you may want to try to help alleviate the pain.  First use a cold pack if available.  If you don’t have a gel pack, you can place some ice in a bag and apply it to the painful area for 10-15 minutes at a time.  Heat may also be used.  Alternating with ice and heat is the best.  Gentle stretches to help maintain flexibility will help as well.  And if you are planning on doing a lot of walking, a good pair comfortable, supportive shoes will help decrease back pain.
Being aware of some of the common mistakes that are made during traveling will help avoid aggravating an existing neck or back pain and prevent a new one from occurring.  Taking some of the steps above will ensure you will have and enjoyable, stress free vacation.  Bon voyage!

Vivian Plummer-Benzick
Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant
Zimmerman Physical Therapy

July 30th, 2015

Posted In: General

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