Whether you’re planning a 3-hour drive to your parents’ house or a flight across the ocean, holiday travel should be smooth and fun, providing the necessary conditions for you and your family to be safe and sound at all times.
But according to a new national survey cited by the World Travelers of America, a significant percent of all frequent travelers think that aches and pains are an inevitable part of their travel experience. That’s because most people have little control over their traveling conditions and are often forced to endure uncomfortable positions in cramped quarters that allow for little or no movement at all. Lack of body movement, standing in line for hours on end, and lugging heavy suitcases to and fro can result in a series of aches and pains that could completely ruin your holiday cheer.
To make sure that your holiday trip doesn’t end in the emergency room, here are some tips and tricks to help you keep muscle aches and pains to a minimum:
Dress comfortably. Plane and car seats are cramped enough, so the last thing you want to do is wear tight, constricting clothes that won’t let you breathe and move about. You should also keep in mind that you not only have to sit through long hours in your travel attire, but also haul your baggage, rush through airport security, and wait to board the plane. When possible, choose breathable materials that will not bother you after 3-4 hours on a train or plane. In between seasons, bring a large pashmina or cardigan you can remove easily.
Lift carefully. If you must do a lot of lifting during your trip, make sure to:
- Not attempt to lift any bags heavier than 10 percent of your body weight
- Keep your back straight at all times. If you have to turn, first point your toes in the direction you’re heading and then turn your entire body to avoid twisting the low back
- Bend at the knees instead of the waist when lifting and hold the bags close to your body
- In case you’re carrying a backpack, make sure it has appropriate padding and try to distribute the weight evenly to prevent muscle strain on either side of the back
Watch your posture. Sitting in the same position for hours on end adds significant strain to your lower back, and incorrect posture puts even more pressure on your spinal column, causing disc pain and other discomfort. The first step towards improving your posture is to become aware of it. Keep your seat upright and do not slouch; your head should be in line with the rest of your body, and the headrest of your chair should provide appropriate support. Bring a lumbar support cushion (or a rolled up towel) to place between your seat and low back to maintain the normal “S” curve of your spine.
Stretch often. Prolonged sitting can make your muscles ache and your joints sore, so it’s important to get moving when you get the chance. Take advantage of restroom breaks to stretch the muscles of your legs and back in order to reduce the likelihood of soreness. There are also certain stretch exercises you can perform directly in your seat, such as ankle circles, foot pumps, knee lifts, shoulder roll, neck roll, forward flex, and several others, as exemplified on Boeing’s website.
Stay hydrated. One of the drawbacks of traveling by airplane is the risk of dehydration caused by the significantly lower level of humidity in the cabin air (10-20% compared to the typical indoor humidity of 30-60%). To keep your system hydrated and prevent the low humidity from exposing your body to muscle aches and soreness, make sure to:
- Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeinated beverages that may worsen dehydration
- Use a good moisturizer to keep your skin soft and prevent itches
- Pack a saline eye solution or a saline nasal spray in case the cabin air gets too dry
Following these tips will most likely ease the pain and strain in your body while traveling. However, if pain symptoms refuse to go away once you resume your regular schedule, visit your local chiropractor to correctly address the underlying cause of your problem.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.