Spring break is already upon us which means you may doing some traveling. Whether you are taking a short road trip in your car or traveling across the country by plane, it is important to take safety precautions to protect your body and stay healthy while traveling.
Pack Light– While it may be more bags to carry, packing lighter bags is better for the structure of your spine & health! Even if you pack a rolling suitcase, at some point it will need to be lifted up stairs or into a car, so it is important that it not be too heavy. A heavy suitcase or bag can aggravate or trigger secondary issues by straining muscles and the spine. Take special precaution while lifting a suitcase up and into or out of a car trunk. This bending over and lifting up and over the edge of the trunk has been a frequent cause of injury to our patients over the years.
Lift in Stages- If you can’t keep your luggage weight to a minimum, at least remember to lift in stages. For example, if you are using the overhead bin on the plane, instead of hurling that bag from the floor all the way over your head; first put it on the seat, then the seat back and then the overhead bin. This will reduce your likelihood of straining your back through your range of motion. Always remember to lift with your legs and pivot with your feet instead of twisting your torso.
Bring Support– Whether you are traveling by car or by plane, it is important to support your back and many seats do not provide the right kind of support for prolonged sitting. Bring your own small pillow (or a jacket or sweater) to put between the seat and your low back to support the natural curve of your spine. Neck pillows help avoid neck strain by providing support while you are sleeping in a sitting position.
Don’t Forget Your Feet– If your feet are not flat on the floor, additional stress is transferred to your lower back. So, if your seat is too high, put your feet on something to lift up. While driving, you can utilize cruise control and rest both feet on the floor to provide more support.
Posture Please- We know you are on vacation, but sitting for long periods puts stress on your spine! Your back should be against the seat and your headrest should support the middle of your head. Try to avoid hunching forward and try to keep both feet on the floor, avoiding crossing your legs at the knees.
Move & Stretch– Extended periods of time without movement causes stiff muscles and joints. If you are able, try to get up and move around periodically to stimulate blood flow. If you stop for gas or change planes, walk around! If you can’t walk around, stretch in your seat by pumping your feet, moving your legs up and down, reaching for the sky, and rolling your shoulders. Staying hydrated with water will help prevent dehydration and overeating or drinking of sugary & heavily caffeinated food and drink. Drinking enough H2O also insures your need for bathroom breaks, which get you moving!
Safe Travel for Children– Always use a car seat when traveling with children weighing less than 40 pounds. Make sure the car seat you are using is the right size for your child and that it is properly secured to the seat. Some estimates show that up to 80% of car seats are installed incorrectly. This means that a lot of people think they are using them correctly and aren’t so always (ALWAYS!) have it inspected by a professional. Go to www.safekids.org to find a car seat inspection site and schedule.
Strengthen Your Foundation – Having a structurally sound foundation is critical to allow your body to adapt to the changes and stresses placed on the body during traveling. If you haven’t ever had your spine (your body’s foundation) and nervous system checked, be sure to before you leave and after you return. A structural chiropractor will check to see if any neurological shifts or structural shifts that might have lead to secondary issues such as pain, numbness, headaches, or other issues.
Drs. Megan and Adam wish you the best if you’re traveling over spring break this year!