August is one of the busiest months of the year for travel, as individuals and households alike knock out a few more vacation days while the weather is prime. And while this is an exciting time, those of you living with chronic back pain fear the hours spent in planes, trains, automobiles, and on a hotel bed without a memory foam mattress. In order to help you better enjoy your trip, our clinic is providing you with some practical tips to a more back pain free vacation.
5 Useful Tips That Will Help You Alleviate Back Pain Before and During Your Travels
1. Baggage Best Practices
Luggage and baggage are primary aggravators of back pain while on vacation. Before you fold your first shirt for packing, take note of the following:
- Buy luggage that is sturdy, light, high-quality and easily transportable with wheels and a handle that allows you to pull it along without crouching. For carry-ons, consider a quality backpack (over a sling bag) with adjustable, padded shoulder straps and a waist strap that will evenly distribute weight.
- Carry-on luggage should not weigh more than 10 to 15 per cent of your body weight.
- If you must use a duffle/shoulder bag (instead of a backpack) be sure to alternate sides so that you evenly distribute the weight during your travels.
- Pack light. Ask yourself if you really need to bring any given item before you add it to your suitcase or carry-on. An extra pair of shoes or bottle of lotion can be the straw to break your back condition symptoms wide open. If you can buy an item at your destination instead of brining it along with you, do so if your budget allows.
- When lifting your luggage, get close and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and proceed to bend at the knees and lift with your leg muscles, rather than your back. Hold the load close to your body, and turn your feet in the direction you are headed and then turn your entire body in that direction.
- Check-in your luggage. Lifting up and pulling down heavy carry ons on a plane packed full of people trying to be the first to do the same can have you heaving, twisting, turning, and performing a variety of unnatural movements that will worsen existing pain. The extra $50 to check-in is worth it when it will save you from significant pain.
- Allow drivers and hotel staff to assist with luggage when they offer. Don’t let your pride (and a couple of extra dollars for a tip) get in your way of a pain free vacation.
2. Back Support Travel Gear
One thing you are encourage to bring along, is back support travel gear. This can include a quality lumbar support pillow, a small orthopedic wedge cushion to provide for more comfortable sitting during long trips, and even a travel-sized foam roller that can be used before, during, and after your flight, rail, or road trip.
3. Get Up and/or Pull Over to Move and Stretch
Sitting stationary while on a plane or vehicle for extended periods of time can significantly aggravate your back pain. It can cause stiffness and tension in the muscles in the back of your thighs (hamstrings) and hip flexor muscles, which will put pressure on your lower back. Reduce the potential for this stiffness and tension by getting up from your seat or pulling over to perform a standing hamstring stretch. If you’re worried about looking like “that person” and want to avoid drawing too much attention from other passengers (and perhaps an air marshal) you can perform simple controlled twists of your torso, shoulder stretches (for upper back relief), and just get up and take a few more walks to the lavatory than may be required. On that latter note, consuming more water during travels is recommended, as dehydration can increase the likelihood of back pain so drink up and take advantage of those aforementioned walks to the bathroom.
4. Don’t Stress
Traveling may be scientifically proven to reduce stress, but that often doesn’t happen until you’ve reached your destination. The process itself, including rushing to the airport, standing in long queues for check-in, and dealing with restless kids (yours or others) on a six hour flight can inflate your stress and anxiety. Since studies prove that stress can have a psychosomatic impact on back pain, giving in to stress system activation can leave you in physical pain for hours before your first poolside Mai Tai.
Make an effort to ease your anxiety by remaining conscious of your feelings and overall mental state, and not let the “little things” get to you. Pack for your trip well in advance, and give yourself a whole extra hour at the airport (etc.) so that you’re not in a rush. If you’re supposed to be at the airport two-hours before a flight, make it three, and you’ll see how travel day anxiety is instantly alleviated.
5. See a Physiotherapist Before You Go
A lot of people get a family doctor check-up before a big trip, but neglect to consult with one of the most important pre-travel companions – a physiotherapist. Why would anyone (with or without chronic back pain) want to sit for hours in a confined space without doing so?
By consulting with a physiotherapist before your trip, you will be able to identify the cause/s of your back pain, and immediately take corrective action. Even if you only have the opportunity to squeeze in one or two chiropractic sessions before your travels, these sessions can make a world of difference when traveling the world. Your chiropractor and/or physiotherapist will ensure proper seated posture and also prescribe DIY exercises and movements that can be done in your hotel room or on the beach so that the healing and back pain relief process continues throughout the trip, making each day better than the one before.
In addition, a physiotherapist may uncover the fact that back pain may be caused by your gait (manner of walking) at which point can provide you with custom orthotics that will make your vacation adventures more comfortable, enjoyable, and pain-free.
Before you plan (or head for) your next trip we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our clinic chiropractor to make sure your body is prepped to keep back pain at bay. Contact Absolute PhysioCare today.