Traveling can be rough on the body. Whether you are traveling alone, on business or are on your way to a sunny resort with your family or friends, long hours in a car or an airplane can leave you stressed, tired, stiff and sore.
Warm Up, Cool Down
Treat travel as an athletic event. No matter how comfortable your car or plane seat is, sitting for long periods of time can wreak havoc on your body, placing strains on your muscles, restricting blood flow, and making you feel stiff once you stand up. “Warm up” before settling into a car or plane, and “cool down” once you reach your destination. Do some upper- and lower-body stretches or take a brisk walk to stretch your hamstring and calf muscles.
In an Airplane
- Stand up straight and feel the normal “S” curve of your spine, then use rolled-up pillows or blankets to maintain that curve while you sit in your seat. Tuck a pillow behind your back, just above the belt line, and lay another pillow across the gap between your neck and the headrest. If the seat is hollowed from wear, use folded blankets to raise yourself up a little.
- Check all bags heavier than 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. Overhead lifting of any significant amount of weight should be avoided in order to reduce the risk of pain in the lower back or neck. While lifting your bags, stand right in front of the overhead compartment so the spine is not rotated. Do not lift your bags over your head or turn or twist your head and neck in the process.
- When stowing belongings under the seat, do not force the object with an awkward motion using your legs, feet or arms. This may cause muscle strain or spasms in the upper thighs and lower back muscles. Instead, sit in your seat first, and using your hands and feet, gently guide your bags under the seat directly in front of you.
- While seated, vary your position occasionally to improve circulation and avoid leg cramps. Bring your legs in, and move your knees up and down. Prop your legs up on a book or a bag under your seat. Massage your legs and calves every once in a while.
- Do not sit directly under the air controls. A draft can increase tension in your neck and shoulder muscles.
- Adjust the seat so you are as close to the steering wheel as comfortably possible. Your knees should be slightly higher than your hips. Place four fingers behind the back of your thigh close to your knee. If you cannot easily slide your fingers in and out of that space, you should re-adjust your seat.
- Consider purchasing a back support . Using a support may reduce the incidence of low back pain and strain. The widest part of the support should be between the bottom of your rib cage and your waistline.
- Exercise your legs while driving to reduce the risk of any swelling, fatigue or discomfort. Open your toes as wide as you can, and count to 10. Count to five while you tighten your calf muscles, then your thigh muscles, then your gluteal muscles. Roll your shoulders forward and back, making sure to keep your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
- Tighten and loosen your grip on the steering wheel in order to improve hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in the arms, wrists, and hands.
- While being careful to keep your eyes on the road, vary your focal point while driving to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and tension headaches.
- Take rest breaks. Never underestimate the potential consequences of fatigue to yourself, your passengers and other drivers.
- Schedule an extra adjustment before you leave on that trip so you can start your travel in the best shape ever.
- The stress of travel takes a toll on all of us, no matter how seasoned we may be. After you return home, get back in for another adjustment so that little problems like back stiffness don’t become big ones, like SI Syndrome, which is commonly caused by prolonged sitting.