Monday, June 22, 2009

5 Tips to Avoid Travel Associated Aches & Pains

It’s summer time again and that means people are heading off on vacation to catch up on a little rest and relaxation. One would think that a week or two of relaxing would be the perfect prescription for nagging low back or neck pain, but in many cases the opposite may be true. Most trips include sitting for extended hours in a car or plane to reach a particular destination, increased stress at the beginning and end of the trip, eating junk food, drinking alcohol and most likely exercising less. All of these factors can lead to increased aches and pains and make your trip that much less pleasurable.

In order to reduce the effects on your system associated with travel, implement these tips and you will hopefully feel like a million bucks by the time you return home.

Tip #1 - Move Regularly

Whether traveling by car, plane, train or some other method of transportation, prolonged sitting is usually involved. Extended periods of sitting often results in tightness through the spinal, pelvic and lower extremity musculature and may ultimately bring on a pain response. Ideally, a person should plan on getting up at least once every hour and spending approximately 5 minutes walking and stretching.

Tip #2 - Stretch Muscles Prone to Tightness

1: Neck half-circles - roll the head from one shoulder across the chest to the other shoulder to maintain the flexibility of the neck musculature

2: Seated lumbar stretch - reach your right hand to your left knee and twist your spine to look as far behind you as possible. hold 10-20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

3: Standing hip flexor/calf stretch - stand in a lunge stance with one leg forward and the other behind you. Keeping your spine straight lunge forward until you feel a stretch at the front of the thigh and in the calf of the leg that is behind you. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

4: Standing hamstring stretch - with your knee locked out, bend forward toward your toes until you feel a stretch at the back of the thigh. Hold 10-30 seconds.

Tip #3 - Pack a back or neck support and use heat and ice packs

Using a portable lumbar or neck (cervical) support on long plane or car rides will provide stability to the spine’s natural curves and help reduce pain. Also, filling a small bag with ice or packing portable heat packs that warm upon opening can be great tools for reducing pain.

Tip #4: Pack light and lift with proper body mechanics

Heavy luggage is often a recipe for low back pain, so only take those necessary items. Once your suitcase is packed with only the essentials, make sure to lift slowly and in such a way that allows you to keep your back straight and requires that your legs do the work. On plane rides, don’t be shy to ask someone for help when loading into the overhead compartment. Lifting 45 pounds above shoulder level puts a great deal of stress on the low back, shoulder and shoulder blade/neck musculature and can cause an instant muscle strain if not performed in a controlled manner.

Tip #5 - Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages

It’s definitely okay to consume alcohol, but make sure you follow up with plenty of water. Alcohol is known to inhibit anti-diuretic hormone, which leads to increased urination and dehydration. Our muscles, tendons, cartilage and most other structures depend on water for normal flexibility, so being dehydrated can contribute to increased stiffness and pain.

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