If you’re one of the 44 million people AAA expects to hit the road next week for the 4th of July holiday, then this is for you!
So often, people come into our office whose neck or back got hurt while they were away on vacation. Why is that?
The biggest reason – and the most obvious – is because almost everything you do while on vacation is DIFFERENT from the activities (or inactivity) that your body has generally adapted to during your normal day-to-day routine.
Here are just a few examples of how travel can wreck your body:
-Sitting for longer than you normally would
-Long periods of time in a cramped space
-Being stuck in poor posture
-Vibration from the road/plane/train
-Dragging heavy luggage around with you
-Walking more than you’re used to
-Doing activities you don’t usually do (jet skis, swimming, biking, etc.)
-NOT working out like you typically would
-Sleeping on a different bed that can be a roll of the dice
The combination of all these things puts different (and sometimes excessive) strain on structures in the body and forces them to adapt.
-This can strain muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves
-It cause inflammation and irritation and can even result in injury
So what can you do to help keep any of this from happening? Here are my best suggestions…
I cannot stress this one enough!!! Our bodies are NOT made to sit, and our only natural defense against sitting is to MOVE!!! Moving your body stimulates nerve activity and blood flow, reducing stiffness and inflammation.
Try to stop every hour if you’re driving (this is admittedly hard for me… I like to get there). If you’re flying, request an aisle seat so you can get up and move around more easily.
[Fun Fact: Did you know that the reason you start to shift in your seat and naturally get restless during long spells of inactivity is because your body’s nervous system is starting to detect the potential for damage and it’s trying to help you avoid injury? Muscle irritation and spasms are often just your body trying to protect itself from YOU!!]
Take it easy in the transitions
If you’ve been sitting for hours, don’t bolt out of the car or the airplane when you get where you’re going. Move easy for a few seconds to give your joints, ligaments and muscles a little bit of time to wake up.
We naturally avoid drinking enough when we travel to avoid unnecessary pit stops, making it easy to get dehydrated when you’re traveling. Dehydration can make you more susceptible to injuring yourself, so stop it before it starts by drinking sufficient fluids. Yes, you may have to go to the bathroom more, but that just means you’re moving more often.
Stretch & Strengthen during your breaks
Stretching is good and lots of folks do this without any nagging from their chiropractor. But striking a good balance between stretching and strengthening will give you better results.
-If you can only do ONE thing, do lumbar extensions (hand on hips, extend back at the waist while pushing your hips forward)
-Dynamic movements like lunges, deep squats, and sky reaches help immensely
-Treat your trip like a workout, which in some ways it is
Your Mirrors Can Help Your Posture
Before you even leave the driveway, put yourself in perfect posture and then adjust your mirrors. If at any point during your trip you can’t see out of your mirrors, you’ll know your posture is slipping.
Don’t sit on your wallet
It will throw your spine out of alignment and force the muscles to work overtime
Never twist while lifting
You can’t roll your luggage everywhere… at some point you will have to pick it up and so often people will bend over to grab it, then they twist while they’re extending to throw it in the trunk or overhead compartment. This is a movement sequence that most people don’t train every day and, when done improperly, is the easiest and most common way to injure the joints in your spine.
Ice or Heat?
Know the difference between what you need and what you don’t. Your doctor can help you determine which is best for you.
Ice = usually reserved for recent injuries or in cases of swelling
-Cold gel pack – keep in your cooler if traveling by car
-Ziploc bag fill it up in the drink machine at the gas station or ask your flight attendant to fill it up for you
Heat = usually best for chronic injuries and areas of stiffness
Bring your own pillow from home
Mattresses can be hit or miss when you get where you’re going. A good pillow can often nullify a bad mattress.
Manage Your Stress
Believe it or not, emotional stress can actually aggravate – and sometimes cause – pain. Leave with plenty of time, don’t over-schedule yourself, and just know that everyone else is trying to get where they’re going too.
Top Spine Savers:
-Rolled up Towel
-Ziploc bag (for Ice)
-Therma Care pack