Don't Let Travel Be a Pain
Posted Sept 17, 2012
According to a study by the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, some of the most common causes of back and neck pain
include lying, sitting or standing in awkward positions for
prolonged periods of time, such as during long car rides, extended
flights or sleeping on a mattress that doesn't provide proper
Classic mistakes travelers make include overpacking, which can
lead to needless back strain when pulling and lifting suitcases,
wearing the wrong footwear and scheduling more physical activity
into their trip than they are accustomed to.
More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 64
experience frequent back pain. It is also the leading cause of
disability in Americans younger than 45.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that adults
with low back pain were three times as likely to be in fair or poor
health and more than four times as likely to experience serious
psychological distress as people without low back pain.
Dr. Jay M. Lipoff, a certified fitness trainer (see
www.backatyour best.com), offers these travel tips to help keep your
Sit right. Adjusting your car seat can help you avoid stiffness,
strains and soreness after a long drive. It should be tilted
slightly backward and knees elevated slightly higher than the hips.
If possible, take breaks and get up and move around, stretching your
legs and back.
Protect your neck. The American Chiropractic Association
estimates that more than 75 percent of drivers have their headrest
at an inappropriate height. Reduce your chances of whiplash by
raising the headrest so the middle of it meets the back of your
Grab the wheel. Most of us are taught to drive with our hands at
the 10 and 2 o'clock position. That's correct, as long as you drop
your elbows so your arms and shoulders can relax. Alternatively,
lower your steering wheel, grab the wheel at the 8 and 4 o'clock
position, and use the armrest, if you have one, or rest your arms on
Stretch your neck. At stoplights or rest stops, do neck
exercises. Examples are gentle side-to-side head turns or moving the
ear toward the shoulder.
Start out slowly. When the back is idle for 20 minutes or longer,
fluids creep back into the disc. As fluids enlarge the disc, it
becomes more vulnerable. So when you arrive at your destination
after a long drive, instead of jumping right out of the car, take a
few minutes to just do some gentle stretches, reducing the fluid
buildup in your disc area.
Lighten your load. Before you even get into that crowded and
cramped airplane seat, you face a bigger hazard: luggage. Pack as
lightly as you can manage and take advantage of curbside check-in if
available so you don't have to haul the bags yourself. A few bucks
as a tip to keep your back healthy? Priceless.
Balance your load. When you carry bags, try to balance the load,
a roller in one hand, your hand luggage in the other. On long walks
through airports, trade sides regularly. If your suitcase has
wheels, load everything on it and push rather than pull it. Pushing
keeps the weight in front of you centrally, giving you better
Fly in comfort. Onboard the plane, place a neck pillow or rolled-
up blanket or towel behind your neck to support it so the headrest
isn't pushing your head forward. Do the same behind your lower back
to support the lumbar spine. If possible, use your carry-on like a
footstool to raise your knees above the level of your hips. For
reading, pull out the tray and place a pillow or your rolled-up
jacket on it, then put your reading material on top so you don't
have to look downward to read.
Have some pillow talk. If you have a favorite pillow and can
afford the luggage space, bring it along, because many hotel pillows
can be quite uncomfortable. Your goal with the pillow you choose is
to keep your neck in a neutral position, one that is similar to when
you are standing or looking straight ahead. The idea is to support
your neck so it's in alignment with your spine, not bent forward.
Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master
certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom
Fitness Personal Training Services, LLC. Write to her in care of the
Dayton Daily News, call her at (937) 878-9018 or send email to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is at www.ohtrainer.com.
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