TRAVEL PAIN FREE
Whether travelling for a holiday or going on a business trip, getting to the final destination well and pain free requires certain measures of preparation and precaution that sometimes, can be taken for granted.
Travelling for the long haul with more than 3 hours travelling time with different transportation such as coaches, cars, trains or planes,can make a very unpleasant and uncomfortable journey.
Over the course of my 20 years practice in pain-management and wellness, I have seen and understood that travelling with pain for a long duration of time can cause a prevalence in pain for the following 3 main body parts: The neck, lower back and knees.
There are ways to prevent and decrease the risks of physical pain when travelling. Here are some ideas that you could put in place to avoid any chance of feeling physical discomfort or pain, before and after reaching your destination.
Preparations and precautions:
- “Prevention is better than cure” holiday travels are always exhilarating but it can be risky on physical stresses, strains and even injuries. In order to enjoy one’s travel without inflicting un-precautionary physical pain or injuries, there are few significant travel plans that one must take into consideration before one travels for the holidays:
- What mode of transportation is taken?
- How far is the destination of travel?
- What is the travel time?
- What is the time difference to the country you are travelling to if any (Jet Lag).
- Once you have decided on your holiday travel plans, you need to plan how you want to pack your luggage, especially travelling for winter holidays. Winter clothing are generally heavier and can be larger in size therefore, the size of the luggage will usually be bigger. The size of your heavier and bigger baggage have a higher risk of inflicting lower back, elbow and shoulder injuries commonly resulting from lifting. The precautionary measures put in place for those who have predisposing pain or injury conditions of lower back, elbow or shoulder, should make sure that they have assistance in lifting of the baggage or engage a porter in the airport. The secondary precaution to prevent lower back injury is to wear a lumbar brace. This gives support to your lower back during the travel time, particularly during the transferring of the heavy luggage in the airport. In other words “Avoid lifting the baggage yourself in any way possible”. Lighten your physical load and chances of lifting as much as possible, and have an upright posture and squat down whenever you need to lift up any objects. Avoid any heavy backpack to protect shoulder and lower back while travelling, use an ergonomically designed backpack if you have to and, make sure the strap is about 2 fingers down from the shoulder for comfort and protection. Travel smart, especially with hand carry luggage as they can be most damaging physically when boarding the aircraft. Such as, when one is trying to lift up one’s hand-carry bag to store it in the baggage The bag should be light and small for personal items like: wallet, passport etc; I have treated a few patients with related injuries on their neck, shoulder and elbow due to the heavy bag storage brought on board the aircraft. Such travel accidents are preventable.
- Ensure that the lower back is always well supported by the pillow that every seat comes with. If you do not travel with a neck pillow, ask for an additional pillow to support the back of the neck when seated.
- While seated check your sitting postures:
- Your body and lower back has a comfortable lean against the backrest of the seat, a pillow supporting the lower back is preferred.
- Your neck is well supported by an additional pillow.
- Check that your shoulders are not rounded or slouched.
- Make sure both feet rest well flatly on the ground.
- Remove your footwear and let your feet breath, preferably with a sock on to protect one from the cold. For the long haul of more than 5 hrs you may want to put on or change to a comfortable outfit, especially travelling on business.
- Importantly if travelers fly with budget airlines where leg-room and seats are relatively cramped, you will want to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
- Those who are fortunate enough to travel on economy or higher classes you may still want to take note and do the following stretches and physical movements during the journey:
- Stretch out your legs and from time to time squeeze your toes thereafter do feet plantar and dorsiflexion. (Exercise a pointing action of the feet up and down motion).
- Rotate your trunk (Torso) from side to side to increase the range of motion on the lower back from time to time while seated.
- Use your left hand and hold onto the right side of the head, then pull and stretch your right neck muscle to the left and hold for 15 seconds. Do the same on the right thus, increasing the neck muscle’s flexibility to reduce stiffness.
- Get up and walk around during the flight every 20 – 30 mins. Find a roomy space and do light squatting exercises for your quad muscles. Or simply stand around for as long as you can.
- Push both arms up above the head against the sky palms facing outwards(stretching the lateral shoulder blade),and stretch from left to right 10 seconds each.
- Then, bring both arms to the back of the body and lock your fingers together. Press downwards towards the waist line, palms facing your back to stretch the shoulders. After this, while your hands are still locked and behind your back raise both hands as high up as possible. This is to stretch the front shoulders. Retract shoulder blades and increase the range of motion on the rotator cuff.
Prolonged sitting while traveling can cause lots of stress and strain to the muscle and joints and some amount of ache or pain is quite inevitable. Prevent and avoid unnecessary injuries, stiffness and tension, by simply making the small effort to do light exercises during flight. Traveling for your holidays can become the pleasant and exciting experience it should be.
Travel pain and injury free, it is definitely possible.