Travel can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of life. However, if a trip away comes with the risk of increased pain and soreness, the excitement can be thoroughly diminished. Many people will avoid travel altogether if their symptoms are exacerbated too much by long seated periods. If you are unlucky enough to fall into this category, here are a few tips from your physiotherapist that help make long trips more comfortable.
Lower back pain is the chief complaint of most travellers. To avoid low back pain, try the following travel health tips:
Adjust the seat angle.
If you can, tilt the seat slightly down towards your feet, not your hips. Your knees should be level with your hips or even slightly lower. A footrest to lift your knees can also help.
Lift the height of the whole seat.
This will assist with tip #1 by lifting the whole body away from the floor. When your hips are less bent, it is easier for your back to sit comfortably in an upright position. It may seem simple, but it can spell the difference between a comfortable trip and a miserable one.
Use lower back support.
Many cars nowadays come equipped with in-built lumbar supports. However, this feature is a generic design and does not fit a specific height or shape. A proper lumbar pillow, or even a rolled towel in the small of the back, can be more effective in maintaining the natural arch of your spine. This relieves pressure through your intervertebral discs, spinal ligaments, and spinal muscles.
Neck discomfort is easier to improve when tips for the lower back are implemented first. Some very easy tips to reduce neck pain are as follows:
Use a travel pillow.
Try wearing your ergonomic travel pillow backwards or sideways if travelling on an aeroplane. This assists in supporting the head in a slightly better position when you rest or sleep, which helps to reduce the stress placed on the muscles, ligaments and joints within the neck.
Every hour, perform 10 chin tucks.
This is one of the tips for travellers that are easiest to perform if you sit tall and press your chin straight backwards, lengthening the back of your neck. Do not tuck the chin to the chest. This exercise stretches the small postural muscles at the base of the skull, relaxing them.
In addition to the tips mentioned above, here are a few more things you can do to make your travel more comfortable:
Take regular breaks.
Take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, and move around whenever possible. Even just a few minutes of movement can help to improve blood flow and reduce stiffness and discomfort.
Dehydration can exacerbate muscle tension and pain, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can further dehydrate you.
This is one of the best travel packing tips you should keep in mind. If you're carrying a heavy bag, it can put extra strain on your neck, shoulders, and back.
Pack what you need, and distribute the weight evenly across your body. Consider using a backpack or a rolling suitcase to reduce the strain on your arms and shoulders.
Remember, these tips are only suggestions, and everyone's body is different. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are unsure about what exercises or techniques are safe for you, it's always best to consult with your physiotherapist before you travel. They can provide personalised advice and help you develop a plan for staying comfortable and healthy while you're away from home.