5 Travel Tips to Keep your Spine Healthy

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, you may be taking

travel tips

to the roads and skies to reach your destinations over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Regardless of whether you’re driving or flying, there exist an inherent set of stresses that may make your ultimate destination less pleasant than anticipated. Follow these easy directions to make your trip THE best ever!

  1. Are you supported?

Got phone charger?  Packed your new dress? Back Support —Wait… what?

The natural curve of your neck and back is shaped like the letter C. Sitting for hours without supporting the middle of the C will cause the lordosis (curve) in your spine to look more like (. Make sure your lumbar (lower back) is aligned parallel with the center of the seat, and that the headrest supports the center of your head. Bring a pillow to support your head and neck. If you’re worried about packing space, purchase an inexpensive inflatable travel pillow that can be readily be deflated. If you have recurring neck or spine issues, you may consider investing in a cervical or lumbar pillow for extra support. In a pinch, simply roll up a jacket or sweater to support your lower back. If you’re the driver in your car, make sure your seat properly supports you, and be aware that when you drive for many hours at a time that your body may not be sitting perfectly straight.

  1. MOVE!

If you are flying, try to walk in the aisle at least every 30 minutes, especially during long flights. If there is room, stretch out your hamstrings and hip flexors to ease tension in the lower back. Moving around keeps your blood circulating. Another simple way to keep the blood moving (while seated) is to “Tap Your Toes” (picture stepping on and off the brake pedal). This exercise activates your calf muscles and helps squeeze stagnant blood back to your circulatory system. It also helps to deter stiffening and spasms in the lower legs and feet. Lastly, make sure your shoes aren’t too tight; unlace them or loosen when possible.

If you are driving, pull into a parking lot, (not onto the side of the road) every few hours, get out, take a walk, stretch, and get your blood pumping again! Not only will your energy increase and your muscles relax, but you will be more alert on the road, especially while driving at night.

  1. Eat and drink properly

If you are flying, try to avoid alcohol. Drink plenty of water. Flying dehydrates the body; the high altitude promotes drying out of the skin and mucous membranes (sinus sufferers know this all to well). Alcohol further encourages dehydration and volume depletion by functioning essentially as a diuretic. Staying properly hydrated helps prevent circulatory problems that result in stiffened muscles throughout your back and legs.

If you’re driving, eat a heavier meal at the beginning of the day. Choose your meals wisely. Eat protein early in the day for clearer brain activity. Enjoy fruits and vegetables as snacks later in the day. I have to admit, I have been guilty of plenty of junk food while on family driving vacations, so don’t punish yourself. Just understand there is a relationship between eating healthy and alertness, and eating healthy and digestive comfort.

  1. Time travel?

If flying, try to book the very first flight of the day. The plane is more likely to be on time, so you’ll have the luxury of avoiding delays and temptations of the ubiquitous high caloric fast food and spirits in every major airport. If a layover is necessary, limiting the downtime between flights is obvious. If you’re able to choose an aisle seat, do so. You’ll have slightly more lateral space to maneuver (if you can successfully avoid having your foot run over by the beverage cart) and be more likely to get up and move.

If driving, try to leave early in the morning. You will be more alert, and there will be less traffic on the roads. Avoid late night driving as much as possible. Remember dawn and dusk are the two more difficult times to see on the road.

  1. Lift Luggage Properly and Stow It Away

If flying, choose a suitcase with wheels and an ergonomic handle that is lightweight. When lifting luggage, bend at the knees (not at the waist), using your leg muscles to do the heavy lifting. Try to distribute the weight evenly when carrying your bags with feet shoulder width apart. When lifting your bag to the overhead bin, bend your knees and lift to set level, rest bag there, then bend knees again and lift to the overhead bin. If you have a shoulder or messenger bag, switch sides frequently to avoid putting stress on one side of your body.

If driving, take the same precautions when lifting bags into the hatch or trunk. Captain Obvious says, “make sure your bags are not blocking your view out of your rear view mirror.

Following these 5 tips will make for a more pleasant trip and a happier vacation! Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

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