How to Take the Aches and Pains Out of Travel
Summer means travel. And, most likely, that mean spending uncomfortable hours in a car or on a plane, which can set the stage for back, joint and muscle pain. Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid the aches and pains of travel this summer, advises chiropractor Dr. Cynthia Boyd of Symmetry Health Center in Seattle, Wash.
- You may want to visit a chiropractor before your trip. An adjustment ahead of time could save you pain along the way.
- Warm up and stretch before you get into the car or board the airplane.
- Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket. It will tilt your pelvis and could cause pain.
- Bring an ice pack or moist hot pack with you in case pain does flare.
Aboard a plane
- Cut the time you spend standing in line by purchasing e-tickets, taking advantage of frequent flier perks, checking in by smartphone, and checking your luggage at the curb.
- Be careful to lift your luggage out of the car and lift it into the overhead bin without twisting your spine. Bend from your knees rather than arch your back. If you’re taking your luggage aboard the plane with you, be sure to switch it from side to side as you traverse the terminal. That goes for your shoulder bag, too. Check bags that weigh more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight. Lifting them into overhead lockers can hurt your spine.
- Tilt your seat backward to support your spine. Bring a small pillow or cushion with you for lumbar support, and a C-shaped neck pillow to encourage proper posture and to help you sleep. You might also want to sit on your jacket or a blanket to reduce the discomfort of sitting on an inadequately cushioned seat.
- Choose an aisle seat. You’ll be able to get up more frequently to stretch and walk around without disturbing the person sleeping beside you. Simple stretches keep the blood flowing and the soft tissues in your back from stiffening. Be aware that keeping your legs in a bent position for long periods can lead to blood clots. Contracting and relaxing your muscles can help, along with pushing up with your toes to shift your knees up and down. In addition, do some range-of-motion exercises, including forward, backward, left/right side bending, and left/right twisting in both your neck and lower back.
- Be conscious of your posture. Align your spine against the back of the seat and be sure the headrest supports the middle part of your head. Avoid rounding your shoulders and plant both feet firmly on the floor (rest them on your carry-on if you’re too short).
- Stay hydrated. Very low humidity in the pressured cabin dehydrates the body. Choose water over alcohol, coffee or tea, which encourage dehydration.
In the car
- Adjust the seat so you’re as close to the wheel as you can be, and keep your knees a little bit above your hips.
- Alternate holding your hands at the 2 o’clock and 7 o’clock positions, then the 10 o’clock and 5 o’clock positions. Don’t grip the wheel too tightly, as that increases muscle fatigue in the hands, wrists and arms.
- Use a pillow for lumbar support.
- Take a break every couple of hours, and do some active range-of-motion exercises.
- Use cruise control so your legs can rest at a right angle in the car.
- If you develop pain or tension in your neck or the back of your head, try this exercise: Sit up straight, look straight ahead, and press the back of your head into the headrest. Hold for five seconds, and do 10 reps.
If pain lingers after you travel, visit your chiropractor for relief. Dr. Boyd and her team are experts in Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP), a method of remodeling and realigning the spine to restore normal nerve flow. The team at Symmetry Health Center is among only a handful of Oakland, Alameda and East Bay chiropractors trained in CBP, the most research- and results-oriented corrective chiropractic technique.
Take advantage of our no-charge consultation to determine whether you or a loved one is a candidate for care at Symmetry Health Center. Call 510-769-0125 for our location in Alameda and 510-654-2207 to reach our Oakland/Berkeley office