Leaving Back Pain at Home: 5 Tips for Holiday Travel
The Unwelcome Stowaway
There are many things that go hand-in-hand with the holidays: cheery decorations, shopping and gifts, delicious foods and drinks, and parties. Travel is also a big part of the season; in fact, as reported in USA Today, 2017 saw a record 107.3 million take to the roads and skies to visit loved ones.  And as exciting as it can be to get that itinerary and make that trip, for back pain sufferers those hours spent behind the wheel or in the aisle seat can be hellish.
Put simply, being immobile and in a potentially very cramped seat for hours at a time can be a veritable minefield for pain. So what can those with back pain do to minimize this discomfort? Here are 5 quick tips for making sure spine issues don’t derail your plans:
1. Bring Back Support
It’s no secret that plane and car seats aren’t necessarily comfortable (especially the former), so when you have a big trip planned, bring along support for your neck or lower back. If low back pain is the issue, a lumbar cushion can be a great help. In the case that you’ve forgotten it, roll up a sweater or jacket to use in its stead. For those with neck pain issues, a u-shaped neck cushion can help prevent strain. These are especially key if you’re on an overnight flight.
2. Pack Smart
It may be tough to pull off—you may be tempted to bring along every great pair of shoes or outfits for every possible occasion—but try to pack light when travelling. Lifting or carrying heavy bags can place an immediate burden on the back. Figure out ways to reduce the weight of your baggage. Also, make sure to use suitcases with wheels on them as this helps keep strain to a minimum. You’re also better off splitting up your belongings into multiple bags rather than just relying on one.
3. Lift Baggage Carefully
Even if you do have a rolling suitcase, there will be moments where you’ll have to lift it, either to put in the trunk in your car or fit into an overhead baggage compartment on a plane. It’s important to think about ergonomics—body positioning—when doing so. If the bag is heavy, keep it close to your body as you lift and bend at the knees rather than the back. Never twist your body when making these movements and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
4. Take Breaks from Sitting
Remaining in one often uncomfortable position for a long period of time will certainly affect your back. If you’re on a road trip, take breaks from driving or sitting in the passenger’s seat once an hour to stretch and move around a little. If flying, feel free to move around the cabin periodically once the captain has turned off the seat-belt sign. This way you’ll no doubt feel much better once you get to your destination.
5. Think Posture
When sitting, do your best to ensure that your posture is healthy. Hours spent slumped forward or craned awkwardly will no doubt be felt in your back. Do the best you can to make sure all of your back is resting against the seat. Also, position the middle of your head (as opposed to the top or neck) so that it’s making contact with the head rest. Avoid hunching and keep shoulders straight. If driving, you may want to adjust seat height or steering wheel angle to ensure a healthy curvature of the spine.
Departures & Arrivals
No matter if you’re hitting the road to see extended family, planning on taking that big vacation, or not even travelling at all this holiday season, back and neck pain is a condition that needs to be confronted head on. It’s debilitating and can affect every aspect of daily living. Luckily, nowadays treatments are less-invasive and more effective than ever before. Solutions are out there. The first step is refusing to accept the pain and seeking out help.
If you’re suffering with debilitating back or neck pain, the team at North American Spine is ready to help. Employing the latest and best in therapies for spine pain sufferers, the experts here have helped countless patients get back on track. Learn more about their unique, patient-centric approach to care by calling 469-638-0208 today!
- Jansen, Bart. 2017. “A Record 107.3 Million People Will Travel For The Holidays — And That Could Spell Traffic Woes”. USA Today, , 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/2017/12/14/aaa-projects-record-107-million-travelers-year-end-holidays/948656001/.