If you’re about to jet, bus or train away for your summer holiday and are worried about back pain, read this. We reveal how to prepare against and prevent back pain when you’re en route to your holiday destination.
Going on holiday should be a time of rest and relaxation. The last thing you want is back and joint pain spoiling your fun, yet the journey to and from your destination can pose some serious challenges.
Fortunately, there are some simple tips to help you avoid problems on your holidays so we’ve compiled a list of useful nuggets.
Each mode of transport represents a unique challenge for your posture and poise.
The bumpiness of a long distance taxi ride in a squishy seat is going to cause different issues compared with squeezing yourself into a rigid airline seat on a short haul flight.
For most situations the same common-sense advice applies.
But, to be comprehensive, we’ve broken the advice down depending on whether it’s air, train or bus travel.
(In the unlikely event you’re travelling on multiple modes of transport all in one sitting we’d suggest just printing this page out rather than trying to remember everything!)
For the best chance of staying pain-free, we’d recommend you begin your preparation before you leave.
Before you go
Enjoying a pain-free holiday starts with preparation well before your departure date.
Ensure you have an appointment with your chiropractor booked in at least a few days before you leave; having adjustments ahead of your trip will make all the difference.
Think about how you can relax on your journey. I like to use meditation apps to recharge when traveling.
Given that travel inevitably involves sitting for long periods, avoid carrying your wallet in a back pocket as when you sit it will tilt your pelvis which can trigger pain.
When checking-in, try to book an aisle seat. Regardless of whether you’re on a long or short haul flight, you should aim to stand up and move around regularly, preferably every 30 minutes at least. If you are boxed into a middle or window seat, you’re more likely to be conscious of disturbing your fellow passengers, so go for an aisle seat so you can move around to your heart’s content.
Try to stretch regularly during the flight. Gentle stretches of your arms, back and legs done very slowly can make all the difference over a long period of time. It also helps circulation and keeps your muscles supple. Set the alarm on your watch to go off every 30 minutes to remind you to do a little stretching.
Plane seats are notoriously bad. To mitigate the effects of your seat, adjust it so it is in a completely upright position to keep your back straight throughout the flight. Try not to recline backwards. (1)
If your meal is served or if you are using the table, ensure your seat is upright. Trying to use the table when your seat is reclined causes you to arch and forces you to stretch your back and arms.
If you suffer from back pain, take a lumbar support pillow. Plane seats do not support the neck and back so bringing your own form of support will help prevent any back pain.
Try to pack as light as possible so you don’t end up carrying heavy luggage. Check heavy bags into the hold rather than lugging these onto the aircraft. Trying to carry items which are too heavy is a major cause of back pain.
If you do have cabin luggage which is heavy, do not try to lift it into the overhead compartments. Ask a flight attendant to stow it for you. They will be happy to do this for you and you will avoid putting any unnecessary strain on your spine.
When travelling by train – as with air travel – try to sit in an aisle seat. Although commuter trains tend to be overcrowded, most long-distance trains have sufficient space to allow you to stand up and walk about for periods of the journey.
If you can book tickets in advance, go for an aisle seat and try booking as far away from the buffet carriage as possible… that way, you’ll be forced to get moving to buy that hard-earned cup of tea!
Again, pack as lightly as possible. Try to stow bags underneath your seat or in dedicated luggage holders at waist level or lower and avoid lifting heavy luggage onto overhead shelving.
If possible, avoid using a laptop or tablet rested on the table. Train tables may not be suitably designed for use over a long period. If you end up cradling your neck and back, it will put pressure on your spine and could cause pain.(3)
When sitting keep as relaxed as possible. Push your buttocks against the back of the seat and ensure your shoulders are pushed up to the seat, too. (4)
It may be difficult without feeling too self-conscious but, on long journeys, try to do gentle stretches and keep your joints moving. Rolling your ankles and feet in circles, doing light shoulder shrugs and neck stretches will help you stay pain-free. As always, avoid sitting with crossed legs.
As with train and air travel, keep moving whenever you can; however, unlike train and air travel, doing so on a bus isn’t usually possible. Therefore, when the bus stops for hygiene or food breaks, don’t be tempted to stay seated. Get up out of your seat, get outside and walk around as much as possible.
If there is enough time try stretching your hamstrings and back. Roll your head from side to side and rotate your hips. These should all help keep you supple and ensure good circulation.
Take regular sips of water. This will help to keep muscles hydrated, making it less likely that they will strain or pull during the trip. (2)
If you are concerned about the quality of your seat, do as you would with air travel and take a lumbar support pillow to support your back. Alternatively, use a rolled up towel and place it between the seat and your lower back.
Lifting heavy luggage
If possible, try to spread the load over two bags rather than one.
If you have to use a shoulder bag, switch sides frequently.
When trying to lift heavy luggage, bend from the knees rather than arching your back. Ensure your body is facing what you are trying to lift and in alignment with your feet so you are not twisting your spine when lifting.
Try to keep your bags close to your body. Make sure you are close to your bags when beginning to lift. If you are reaching across something to get to your bags, you could pull a muscle in your back. (5)
With enough preparation and by keeping these tips in mind, you’re maximising your chances of avoiding back pain during your journey.
Do you need help?
If you are planning on going away soon and need help before your trip, Wokingham Chiropractic can help. We’re experts at dealing with back pain. Call us today on 0118 978 7466 and we’ll gladly advise you before you take your holiday.
Image courtesy of anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
1. Contagious Enthusiasm – Holiday travel tips – https://www.contagiousenthusiasm.com.au/#!Chiropractic-Holiday-Travel-Tips/cjp/6FE037FD-473B-416C-9358-D8BF758490E0
2. Matthews Family Chiropractic – Tips for easing back pain during place travel https://www.matthewsfamilychiropractic.com/healthtalk/blog/tips-for-easing-back-pain-during-plane-travel-summer-travel-series-part-iii/
3. BackExperts.co.uk – Preventing back pain on long train journeys https://www.backexperts.co.uk/articles/general/2010/preventing-back-pain-on-long-train-journeys.aspx
4. British Chiropractic Association – Tired of your commute? https://www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk/tired-of-your-commute-214-news.aspx
5. Spine-Health.com – Pain free travel tips https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/pain-free-travel-tips