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Tips for trauma-free travel

June 26, 2009

Holidaying is one of our favourite pastimes, with Brits making almost 70,000 trips abroad alone each year. While we traditionally associate holidaying with seasonal health complaints such as travellers’ tummy, sunburn and insect bites, back pain is also a common holiday health hazard.

We all need a holiday to recharge our batteries, but with back pain affecting almost 80% of us at some time in our lives, occasionally a combination of hectic preparations, uncomfortable journeys and emotional stress can mean that travel takes its toll on the back.

Whether planning the holiday of a lifetime or just looking for a seasonal summer getaway, backadvice.info, has the following advice to help prevent and ease back pain on your travels:

Flying high – airplane travel can be restrictive and uncomfortable, even if you don’t have an existing back complaint. Try to request an aisle seat where you will have more leg room and can regularly get up and move around to ease any pressure on the back – if you are in a middle seat, use a toilet break as an opportunity to stretch your legs and back. To help maintain a good sitting posture, keep both feet flat on the floor at all times.

Keep moving – regular, gentle exercise helps ease stiffness and strengthens the back muscles. Ensure you keep mobile a little every day while you are away, particularly if you are used to a certain level of exercise, to avoid muscle seizure. Make the most of your hotel pool or a safe bathing area of the sea to keep you active – water can also help ease any niggles you may have.

Sightseeing – one of the best parts of any holiday is soaking up all of the glorious sights! However, constant craning of the neck to view beautiful buildings such as the Eiffel Tower, Sagrada Familia or Empire State Building may place a strain on the neck muscles. Rest the neck each evening by having a relaxing bath and use a pressure relieving travel pillow to support and help the muscles recover.

Travel light – while it is temping to pack for every eventuality, wherever possible, try to pack light. Lugging around heavy baggage can put a strain on the back, particularly if you are not used to carrying or lifting heavy loads. Invest in a wheeled suitcase, make use of luggage trolleys at airports and don’t be afraid to ask airport, coach or taxi staff for help. If you need to lift hand luggage into an overhead locker of a plane, bend your knees and hips – not your back – and try to prevent bending and twisting at the same time.

Treat yourself – holidays are all about relaxation and indulgence, but an added bonus is that if you have access to luxuries such as a jacuzzi, having a massage or using a steam room, these can also benefit your back as they manipulate and relax the muscles.

Comfort on-the-go – while you may need to sit in uncomfortable positions on your travels – especially if you are flying long-haul, have a long transfer to your destination, or are travelling a distance by train or car – it helps to be able to rest your head comfortably. While blow-up neck cushions might seem a good buy, often they only offer limited support and can deflate on long journeys.

Colder climes – if you’re planning a skiing or snowboarding trip, or are holidaying somewhere cool, remember that if the kidney area is exposed or cold, the lower back and pelvic muscles will tighten leaving the back vulnerable to injury. Even if you are active and feel warm, keep an extra layer of clothing on to ensure the back is warm as well. A hot bath at the end of the day should also help.

Spread the load – sun lotion, insect repellent, beach towels, bottled water… there are plenty of travel essentials that we all stock up on to accompany us on our holiday. Although important, the collective weight of these can add up. To ensure you even the load and reduce the strain on your back and neck, swap your beach bag for a small backpack which you can wear across both shoulders.

Sleeping sound – its important to get a good night’s sleep, not only to ensure you can make the most of your time on holiday, but also to help your body’s tired muscles recuperate. When you reach you destination, it is sometimes difficult to get comfortable on a new bed.

Keep hydrated – dehydration contributes to a surprising number of back pain cases, so its important to drink plenty of fluids particularly if you are in a hot country. Remember that some drinks, such as caffeinated tea and coffee, actually dehydrate the body – the best way to keep your levels topped up is to carry a bottle of water with you and sip it throughout the day.



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