Travel Tips For Your Back

Many of us will be traveling during the holiday season. Here are some tips to help keep you comfortable during your travels.

Car Travel

  • Make sure your car seat is adjusted so that you are sitting comfortably and firmly against the back of the seat.
  • Try to be in a position where you don’t need to lean forward or stretch to reach something.
  • Adjust the seat so you are as close to the steering wheel as comfortably possible. Your knees should be slightly higher than your hips.
  • Adjust the headrest so it supports the center of the back of your head.
  • To test that your seat is adjusted correctly place four fingers behind the back of your thigh, closest to your knee. If you cannot easily slide your fingers under your thigh then you need to re-adjust your seat.
  • Use foam back supports or pillows that are designed for driving to help minimize strain on your lower back. The widest part of the support should be between the bottom of your rib cage and your waistline.
  • Take frequent rest breaks on long trips. Get out of the car, walk around and do some back pain relief stretches for about 10 -15 minutes. If you are stopping at a service station do not sit in the café but move and walk around first.
  • Do not keep your mobile phone or wallet in your back pocket. If you do it can create an abnormal sitting position, tilting one hip higher, which may cause you to have problems.
  • Exercise your legs while driving by doing these simple exercises:
    1. Stretch your toes apart as wide as you can and count to ten.
    2. Tighten your calf muscles and count to five.
    3. Tighten your thigh muscles and count to five.
    4. Tighten your gluteal muscles and count to five.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water during the journey.

Air Travel

  • Use suitcases with wheels and a sturdy handle. Carrying heavy suitcases will strain your shoulders, back, hips, and knees. Do not overload the suitcase.
  • Before boarding the plane, try to do a quick warm-up by taking a brisk walk or doing some simple stretching exercises.
  • Check all bags that are heavier than 10% of your body weight.
  • Lifting a bag above your head could cause muscle strain or sprain so try to not overload the carry-on baggage that you are going to store in the overhead compartment. When lifting your baggage to place in the overhead compartment stand directly in front of the compartment so the spine is not rotated. Don’t lift your bags over your head or turn or twist your head and neck in the process. Ask the flight attendant for assistance.
  • Vary your position occasionally while seated on the plane, this helps to improve your circulation and avoid leg cramps. Occasionally exercise your legs and hips by bringing your legs in and moving your knees up and down. Try propping your legs up with a book or a bag so your knees are slightly higher than your hips.
  • Avoid sitting directly under the air vents above you. The draft can increase tension in your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Avoid bending over and crouching when stowing something under the seat in front of you. Try to use your feet to gently guide the object instead.
  • Use rolled up blankets or pillows that are designed for traveling to help maintain your spine’s natural curve. Tuck the support behind your back, between the bottom of your rib cage and your waistline. Put another pillow across the gap between your neck and the headrest.
  • Take a brisk walk to stretch your hamstring and calf muscles when you have reached your destination.
By Mattingly Chiropractic, July 14, 2013