Traveling can be rough on the body. Whether driving a few hours to a sunny resort with your family or flying cross-country for a week-long holiday excursion, long hours in a car or an airplane can leave you feeling stressed, tired, stiff and sore. Be sure to get adjusted before and after your vacation so you can feel your best!
“Prolonged sitting can take a toll on your body,” says Scott Bautch, DC, of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. “Even if you travel in the most comfortable car or opt to fly first class, certain pressures and forces from awkward positions can result in restricted blood flow. One of the biggest insults to your system from prolonged sitting is the buildup of pressure in the blood vessels in your lower legs. Contracting and relaxing the muscles helps the blood flow properly.”
Dr. Bautch and the ACA recommend the following tips to fight the pains and strains of travel before they occur.
The Strain of Sitting: Treat travel as an athletic event. Warm up before settling into a car or plane, and cool down once you reach your destination. Take a brisk walk to stretch your hamstring and calf muscles.
Travel by Car: Adjust the seat so you are as close to the steering wheel as comfortably possible. Consider a back support. Using a support behind your back may reduce the risk of low-back strain, pain or injury.
Exercise your legs while driving to reduce the risk of any swelling, fatigue or discomfort.
To minimize arm and hand tension while driving, hold the steering wheel at approximately 3 o’clock and 7 o’clock, periodically switching to 10 o’clock and 5 o’clock.
Do not grip the steering wheel. Instead, tighten and loosen your grip to improve hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in the arms, wrists and hands.
While always being careful to keep your eyes on the road, vary your focal point while driving to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and tension headaches.
Take frequent rest breaks. Get out and walk around, stretch, and re-hydrate.
In an Airplane: Stand up straight and feel the normal “S” curve of your spine. Then use rolled-up pillows or blankets for your neck and back to maintain that curve when you sit in your seat.
Check all bags heavier than 5-10 percent of your body weight. Overhead lifting of any significant amount of weight should be avoided to reduce the risk of pain in the lower back or neck.
When pushing your belongings under the seat, do not force the object with an awkward motion using your legs, feet or arms. This may cause muscle strain or spasms in the upper thighs and lower back muscles.
While seated, vary your position occasionally to improve circulation and avoid leg cramps.
Be aware of drafts created by air vents you can control. The draft can increase tension in your neck and shoulder muscles.
“If you follow these simple tips, you can enjoy pain-free, safe travel,” adds Dr. Bautch. “If you do experience pain and stress on your back, doctors of chiropractic are trained and licensed to diagnose and treat problems of the spine and nervous system.”