Summer is upon us. And summer means travel! But the best laid travel plans can be ruined by an aching lower back. In celebration of 13 weeks of summer, here are our 13 must-read tips for back pain-free travel this summer.
- Pack light. You are better off using 2 or 3 smaller bags instead of one large bag. Remember that you will be lifting these bags in and out of your car trunk, off airport baggage carousels, into and out of overhead bins, etc.
- Lift with your legs and never twist while lifting. Do not bend over at the hips when lifting. Instead bend your knees and lift using your legs. Most importantly, do not twist as twisting while lifting is one of the most common causes of back strain. Pivot with your feet so that your whole body moves instead of just twisting your back.
- Ask flight attendants for help. If you explain you have a back condition, most flight attendants are eager to help. You’d be surprised how other passengers are also more than willing to help. If your bags are light, it’s even less of a burden to ask.
- Aisle seat is best. Though most people prefer window seats, for someone with low back pain, an aisle seat can be a back-saver. It allows you to get in and out of your seat easier and move around the cabin more comfortably.
- Do not hesitate to ask for wheelchair-assistance. If walking from your parking spot all the way to the gate will be too much for your back, ask for wheelchair assistance. This is best done when you make your reservations. This way you won’t have to carry your luggage, walk to your gate, or stand in line at security. Traveling with a letter from your physical therapist can help explain your condition and help get you the accommodations that you need.
- Sit with support. Whether traveling by plane or going on a road trip, maintaining proper posture when seated is important. To maintain the natural inward curve in your lower back, use a folded towel or blanket or a commercial lumbar roll.
- Consider packing a travel footrest. Placing your feet on something so your knees are higher than your hips can reduce pressure on your lower back. A piece of luggage is a good substitute for a travel footrest.
- Get up and move. Prolonged sitting tends to stiffen our back muscles and put a strain on our spine. If possible, try to get out of your seat or your car at least once every hour. Better yet, once every 30 minutes. Movement helps your circulation going which keeps your back loose and relaxed. It will help prevent blood clots too!
- Stretch your hamstrings and hip flexors. For long periods, when you can’t get up due to meal or beverage service, or when the seat belt sign is on for a prolonged period, do stretching exercises while seated. Like getting up and about, they can help alleviate pain and pressure from your back.
- Bring cold and hot packs for quick pain relief. Despite taking the necessary precautions, your back pain may still flare up while you’re away from the comforts of home. If so, try applying a cold pack or alternating ice and heat. Ice and hot packs should be easily accessible while traveling. If not, you can simply put some ice in a plastic bag and apply it to the area of pain. Plan ahead by bringing disposable hot packs that heat up when you open them.
- Get comfortable immediately when going on a road trip. Take the time to make sure you’re comfortable from the moment you set off on your trip. The smallest irritant in the beginning of your trip can turn into raging pain later. Don’t have your wallet, cell phone, or anything else in your back pocket, as that may throw your spine out of alignment. Reduce reaching for the steering wheel, which places more stress on the lumbar spine, neck, shoulder, and wrists. Instead, sit as close to the steering wheel as possible without compromising your safety.
- Drink lots of water. The low pressure and humidity conditions on planes tend to dehydrate passengers. Getting dehydrated, especially if taking medication, is a problem for those with back, disc, and joint pain problems. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and colas, as they act as diuretics.
- Consult with your physical therapist at least a month before your trip. The best way to cover all your bases when preparing for summer travel is to arrange a consultation with your physical therapist. During this FREE consultation, your therapist will delve into your history of back pain, what aggravates and eases your pain, and he will give you exercises you can do to keep your back loose, relaxed, and pain-free. Call the Lower Back Pain Specialists at Orthopedic and Balance Therapy at 219-548-8770 to arrange for your FREE consultation today!
To learn more about Back Pain and Sciatica, I am hosting a Back Pain and Sciatica Workshop coming up.
Click here to register for the Valparaiso Back Pain and Sciatica Workshop.
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