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  • Writer's pictureAmy Dougley

How to prevent back and neck pain while traveling

Travelling is a wonderful time to enjoy a new place and experience new things with friends or family. But aches or pains from travelling can interfere with your enjoyment of your much deserved time off.

With travel season in full swing we wanted to share some important tips to help you and your family avoid the aches and pains that can strike when riding in planes, trains and cars.

Move Around

Sitting for long periods while on a plane or in a car is usually what contributes to the aches or pains we experience with travelling. Although it is hard to move around while we are in motion, getting to our destination, we can take any opportunity possible to move around. This would include walking around while waiting for your plane instead of sitting in the airport, and also making frequent rest stops if you are driving. It can even be a quick stop where everyone gets out of the car and walks around for a couple of minutes. This will help counteract the negative effects of sitting for extended periods of time. If you are stuck on the tarmac, waiting for the plane to take off, stand up if possible and move around in your space. You don't have to overthink it, just move at every opportunity.

Carry a Hot / Cold Pack In case an ache or pain does strike, be sure to pack a hot / cold pack. Heat is best for when the pain is achy in nature and cold is best for when a pain is sharp. Having this with you doesn't take up much space in your luggage but can help ease aches and pains in case they do happen. Remember that you only want to apply ice or heat for 15 minutes at a time. This can be done every hour, but don't leave the hot or cold pack on for extended periods of time.

Use Supports

Another helpful thing you can keep with you while travelling is a neck / back support pillow. These are small little neck pillows that go around your neck to help support your head while sitting for long periods. They can even be found in airports or at rest stations. The supportive pillow can help prevent neck problems related to the strain that is placed on our necks from sitting.

Stretch Stretching is something that can be done even while you are sitting. You can tilt your ear towards your shoulder, reach over your head and pull down, in order to effectively stretch your neck muscles. This should be done as often as possible, especially throughout a long flight or car ride where there is not much opportunity to stand up and move around. Hold the stretch for 1 - 2 minutes per side and repeat twice.

If you do get the opportunity to stand up, you can stretch your low back. You can lean back and side to side in order to get some movement into your lower back. Hold each position for 1 - 2 minutes in order to get an effective stretch of the muscles around your lower spine.

Pack light One of the most common injuries we can experience while travelling comes from lifting heavy luggage. The easiest way to prevent this is by packing light. Only bring one pair of shoes and put your books on a tablet or e reader so that you don't have to lug them through the airport. You can also reduce the size of your suitcase by planning to do some laundry during your trip, that way you only have to pack a few articles of clothing instead of bringing a different outfit for each day of your holiday.

If you do find yourself having to lift, remember to bend at the hips and knees while keeping your back straight. This is the best lifting posture that will help prevent pain from striking.

If you do end up in pain while on your holiday, try and find a reputable professional such as a chiropractor, massage therapist or physiotherapist in the area. It will likely be worth the price so that you can enjoy your holiday.

If you are already receiving chiropractic or physiotherapy and will be away for some time, it might also be a good idea to seek care while you are away so that progress in your care plan is not lost.

Wherever in the world life takes you, enjoy the journey and remember these tips so that pain doesn't interfere with your time off.

Dr. Spenser Dougley DC, FR, FRCms

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