Vacations are usually meant to be relaxing, but traveling can cause increased stress on the body, and ultimately be a pain in the neck! The seats in airplanes, cars, trains, and buses are not always the most comfortable, even when you’re a CEO paying business or luxury class. With 80% of Americans suffering from back pain, the thought of a long trip can be discouraging. Luckily, the pain associated with travel can be greatly reduced, and in many cases avoided.
Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, an orthopedic back surgeon, offers these travel tips to help keep your spine comfortable and healthy while on the go:
- Check Your Posture: Sitting for prolonged periods can strain your back, and your positioning can make it even worse. To provide yourself with the most relief, make sure your back is aligned against the back of the seat and your headrest is supporting the middle of your head. Keep your shoulders straight and avoid rounding forward. Both feet should be firmly resting on the floor.
- Smart Preparation: Reduce the time spent standing in lines by planning ahead. Purchasing electronic tickets, acquire elite frequent flyer status, take advantage of digital electronic check-in by smart phone, and check your luggage curbside.
- Travel Light: Resist the urge to over-pack and reduce the stress on your shoulders and spine. Choose a light suitcase with wheels and a handle for rolling.
- Tilts: Tilting your seat backward, with a pillow behind your back in proper posture will lead to the efficient loading of your spine. Behind your neck rests are usually two foldable pads that can be adjusted close to your neck. This prevents sleeping with your neck in an awkward position.
- It’s all in the legs: Keep your legs out in the extended position. The bent or flexed position leads to your leg veins being stagnant, and may lead to a blood clot. It is important to get up and walk, stretching the legs and arms at least once an hour.
- Stretch: When all else fails keep moving! Simple stretches of the neck, shoulders, and back will help keep the blood flowing. Blood brings important nutrients and oxygen to the structures of the back. This helps to stimulate the soft tissues in your back and keeps them from stiffening, which can reduce aches. Even a few seconds of stretching and moving is better than not doing anything at all!
- Breathe: Place your hands on your abdominal area and feel your belly move as you inhale and exhale. Do this as many times a day as possible to improve your posture and overall spinal health.
- Intention: Realize that the trip itself is a destination to be planned and thoroughly enjoyed. Watch your intentions. “I have a gorgeous hour to listen to my music, my book, or chat with a friend” is a better intention than “Ugh, I’m a prisoner on this trip.”
- Best Hours: Face it! Some of our best hours of our lives are spent travelling. Be thoughtful about it. Choose a vehicle that is safe, ergonomic, comfortable and that you love. Upgrade to business class if possible (less expensive, booked 1 month early).
- See Opportunity in Delays: Expect delays. Look for the opportunities to read a book, or watch a movie and connect with your travel companion. Anger and frustration leads to shallow breathing, stiff muscles and pain.