If you live with back or neck pain, even the thought of traveling may be daunting. Sitting in a vehicle, plane, bus or train seat for a long period of time can aggravate pain and discomfort, taking all the joy out of traveling.
Whether you’re planning a trip for work or for pleasure, these travel tips can help prevent back or neck pain while traveling.
Lift and Carry Luggage Carefully
Lifting heavy objects, such as luggage, without using proper form can cause back strain or even injury. Be sure to lift heavy bags slowly and carefully. Bend at the knees to ensure you’re using your leg muscles instead of your back muscles. Avoid twisting the lower back while lifting. When putting a bag in an overhead bin on an airplane, first lift the bag to the top of the seat, then in a separate motion, lift it into the bin.
Bring Your Own Back Support
Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or car, be sure to bring a lumbar support pillow or back roll to help prevent slouching and to keep your spine straight. A neck pillow may also help with neck pain and provide a more comfortable position to catch some sleep. If you don’t have a lumbar support pillow handy or you forget it, roll up a blanket or sweater and place it at the inward curve of your lower back to provide added support.
Take Care of Your Feet
Sometimes back problems actually originate in the feet. Wearing supportive footwear can help reduce stress on your back. It’s also important to be sure your feet are flat on the floor or a footrest to keep your knees at a right angle and avoid adding stress to your lower back during long trips. If you are driving, use cruise controls so you are able to keep your feet in a proper, supportive position.
Keep Your Posture in Check
The longer the trip, the more likely you are to begin slouching. Sitting for long periods of time puts enough stress on your back, without the added impact of poor posture. Keep your back aligned against the back of the seat with shoulders straight. Avoid hunching forward or slouching. Be sure the headrest of your seat supports the middle of your head and avoid using your phone or reading or other activities that might require you to tilt your head downward for a prolonged period of time.
Move Around as Much as Possible
If you’re on a long flight, bus or train ride, be sure to get up and move around as much as you are able. Locate an open space near the back of the plane, train or bus where you can do a few, light stretches to loosen tight muscles. If you’re driving, schedule frequent stops (at least every hour or more if needed) to get out of the car, move around and stretch. Any movement you can do on your trip helps stimulate blood flow to your lower back. While seated, adjust your position at least every 20 minutes. Flex your feet and ankles frequently to keep blood flowing and stretch your leg muscles.
Don’t Forget Your Pain Medication
If you take over-the-counter or prescription pain medication, be sure to pack it in your carry-on and have it with you at all times. Take your pain meds one hour before leaving on your trip so it’s already in your system and working.
A long day of travel can get tense, especially if things don’t go as planned. Take time to focus on deep breathing to relax your muscles and nerves. Listen to soothing music or read a book or magazine that will help distract your mind from stress and any stiffness or pain you might be experiencing. Stay focused on your final destination and the scenery and activities you will enjoy once you arrive.
These tips can help reduce your back or neck pain while traveling and make your journey more enjoyable. If you suffer from chronic back pain, contact Houston’s back pain doctor, Dr. Vivek Kushwaha, today.