Whether you're embarking on an adventurous backpacking trip, sitting in the car for hours, or enduring a long-haul flight for business, traveling can take a toll on your back health. The prolonged periods of sitting, uncomfortable seats, and lack of movement can often result in unpleasant back and neck pain. However, with a little preparation and conscious effort, you can minimize the risk and enjoy a pain-free journey. In this blog, we'll explore some practical tips to prevent back pain and ensure a comfortable travel experience.
When it comes to preventing pain, packing the correct items can make a significant difference. Opt for a lightweight suitcase with wheels or a backpack that distributes weight evenly across your shoulders. Avoid overpacking and try to minimize the load you carry. When traveling in the airport, we suggest using rolling suitcases whenever possible.
If you are driving or flying, make sure you also pack over the counter pain or sickness medications such as ibuprofen or dramamine in case you experience any discomfort on your journey. Neck pillows and additional seat cushions can also make your flying experience less painful.
If you are hiking or going on a walking tour, make sure your bag is not too heavy for you to carry. Only pack the essentials you need to minimize the load you are carrying on your back. You can also consider using compression packing cubes to organize your belongings and condense the load, reducing strain on your back.
Choose the Right Luggage
Investing in ergonomic luggage can go a long way in preserving your back health during travel. Look for suitcases or backpacks with padded straps and proper back support. Ensure that the handles and wheels are sturdy, as this will reduce the strain on your back when navigating airports, train stations, or bus terminals.
Having the correct bags during a long trip is essential. We recommend using rolling luggage whenever possible to limit the load on your spine. If you are using a backpack or carry-on bag, we recommend a higher quality bag with proper padding. Cheaper bags are more likely to disregard proper ergonomics leading to back issues.
We understand it’s not always possible but if you can, choose seats that offer good lumbar support. Whether you're on a plane, train, or in a car, an adjustable seat with lumbar support can help maintain a healthy posture and prevent back pain. If you're on a long flight, consider upgrading to premium economy or business class for more legroom and better seating options.
If you are a taller or larger individual, it is important to plan your seating accordingly. You may also benefit from booking two seats rather than one to assure you have the right amount of space.
Practice Proper Posture
Maintaining good posture is crucial to preventing back pain while traveling. Sit up straight with your back against the seat and your feet flat on the floor. Avoid crossing your legs, as it can contribute to poor circulation and strain on your back. If you're driving, adjust the seat and steering wheel to ensure your arms are relaxed and slightly bent. Try to avoid falling asleep with your head dangling forward.
Wear Proper Footwear
People often neglect wearing proper footwear on vacation and choose stylish options over supportive sneakers. If you are hiking or go on a walking tour, make sure you have protective shoes that cover your feet and offer arch support. Flat shoes without arch support can not only lead to foot sole pain like plantar fasciitis, but it can also cause lower extremity pain that stems up through your knees, hips, and lower back. If you wear supportive shoes and still experience pain, you may also benefit from custom orthotics. Custom orthotic insoles are offered at Garden State Pain and Orthopedics to prevent foot pain, and other systemic pain.
If you are on the beach, or traveling at the airport it is important to wear comfortable shoes or sandals that are supported as well. We suggest sandals or slides from trusted brands like Oofos, On Cloud, Hoka, Crocs, and Birkenstock.
Take Frequent Breaks
Sitting for prolonged periods can cause stiffness and discomfort in your back. Whenever possible, take regular breaks to stretch and walk around. On long flights, make it a habit to get up and move around the cabin every couple hours or so. When driving, plan rest stops along the way to stretch your legs and give your back a break.
Incorporate Stretching Exercises
Simple stretching exercises can help alleviate tension and improve circulation during your travels. Perform gentle neck rolls, shoulder shrugs, and back stretches while seated. Standing stretches such as toe touches, lunges, and side bends can also help loosen up your muscles. Incorporate these exercises into your travel routine to prevent stiffness and promote better back health. However if you are on a flight, make sure to be aware of the others surrounding you. Standing up every couple hours is enough.
If you are planning a vacation with a long car ride we recommend stopping and standing up every 2-3 hours. This allows time to stretch and can help with cramping.
Use Travel Pillows and Cushions
To support your neck and maintain proper spinal alignment, consider using a travel pillow. These pillows are designed to provide adequate neck support and prevent head drooping while you sleep or rest during travel. Additionally, carrying a small lumbar cushion or roll can help maintain the natural curve of your lower back and prevent slouching.
Staying hydrated is always important. If you are going on a hike or walking tour you definitely need to stay as hydrated as possible. Hydration is often overlooked but plays a vital role in preventing muscle cramps and stiffness. Dehydration can exacerbate back pain and make traveling uncomfortable. Drink plenty of water throughout your hike or tour and avoid excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol, as they can dehydrate your body.
However - If you are an individual with limited mobility, traveling on a plane or enduring a long car ride it may be beneficial to avoid drinking too many fluids. If you have a difficult time walking around, drinking too much water can lead to frequent urination which is a very annoying occurrence when trapped in a car or plane. If you have mobility issues it may be beneficial to avoid OVER-hydrating to prevent an increase in bathroom breaks.
Hopefully these tips give your back a break this summer. Back pain should not be an inevitable part of your travel experience. By following these practical tips, you can prevent discomfort and take care of your back while on the move. Remember to pack wisely, maintain good posture, take regular breaks, and incorporate stretching exercises. By prioritizing your back health, you can ensure a more enjoyable and pain-free travel experience.
If you are experiencing any type of back, neck or any other type of pain on your trip, the physicians at Garden State Pain and Orthopedics can help. If you would like to learn more about our services click here, or select “Book Now” at the top of the page to book an appointment. If you plan on traveling we hope you have a great pain free trip! Bon voyage!