For some of us, traveling for business or pleasure is a normal part of life. Some do it more than others, but the effects of travel on your back can be the same. Travel is a commonly overlooked cause of lower back pain.
Up Up & Away
Air travel in particular can cause flare-ups in back pain due to prolonged slouching in a confined space for several hours followed by dragging your suitcase through airport terminals. The seats in aeroplanes compress the discs between your vertebrae and can increase any underlying or pre-existing back complaint.
But don’t think your back in immune to punishment when you are travelling in a car either. Driving involves long hours of inactivity in a seated position and often any discomfort can be exacerbated by poor road conditions which jarr your body.
The last thing you want on your trip is to not be able to enjoy yourself because of back pain. Fortunately you can prepare yourself for the arduous journey ahead by taking some proactive steps in order to help prevent back pain and other related conditions.
Whether it is a short trip or a long haul; try the tips below to help keep back pain at bay. Just remember, if driving make regular stops in order to stretch. Please don’t attempt them whilst on the road!
Frequent movement is critical for prevention of pain. You need to move well and move often. When flying try to get up and move every hour. Take a walk up and down the aisle to increase blood circulation in your legs. This helps prevent aching and soreness in your calves and reduces the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT, an extremely painful condition where a blood clot forms in a vein deep in the calf when blood thickens and clumps together). Prolonged sitting can also weaken the stability of your core abdominals which support the spine. Core weakness inhibits the optimal function of your hips and buttock muscles because you have a loss of central stability. Frequent contraction of your abdominal and buttock muscles will build a central foundation of strength reducing the risk of injury.
There are very simple ways to engage your abdominals and buttocks while traveling.
Hands Over Head
Raise your hands over your head and press your palms together with light pressure for 5-seconds. You can do this movement standing or sitting. Why does this help? Whenever you put your hands over your head it forces your spine into extension. The abdominals muscles function as anti-extension muscles. Your brain tells your abdominal muscles to spring into action in order to prevent too much extension. This simple maneuver works the core because it is a natural response to this particular movement, which means that you don’t have to think about working the muscle as it just happens automatically. Pressing the hands together at the end of the movement contracts the muscles further, while also waking up your upper back muscles that are tired from slouching.
If driving, perform this movement when you stop to take a break.
Your buttock muscles go to sleep when you sit for a long time, developing what is known as ”glute amnesia’, where the muscles forget what to do and when to do it. Waking them up is a must to help prevent lower back pain. If you don’t use your buttock muscles for support your brain finds the support in your lower back. Simply put, you overuse your back because it’s trying to do its job as well as your buttocks responsibilities. It gets tired! And when it gets tired it hurts!
To get your buttock muscles back into action stand with both legs together, take a slight step backwards while squeezing the buttock on the backwards leg. Hold the position whilst you count to 6. Repeat the action 5 times per side. Stepping backwards fires the buttock muscles and the isometric contraction help sustain the movement.
Breathing sets the benchmark for core stability and neck strength. It may sound odd, but most people do not breathe effectively – inhaling and exhaling using too much of their chest and lungs as opposed to the diaphragm. Your diaphragm is an inner core muscle that contributes to intra abdominal pressure. People who use their chest to breathe use their anterior neck muscles and upper shoulders too much. Belly breathing is a powerful way to relax the body.
Put one hands on your chest and one on your abdomen. Take a deep breath in through your nose and make the bottom hands move before the top hand. In essence you are inflating your abdomen like a balloon. If your chest hand moves first that means you are breathing with your chest too much. Breathe this way for 3 minutes.
Move your body in unusual ways to help stimulate energy. The next time you take a trip try these moves and see how you feel.
Hop up and down for 30 seconds on the balls of your feet. You only need to come off the ground half an inch or less. This gets blood rushing from the lower half of your body to the top half. Breathing and heart rate increase which delivers much needed oxygen to tight and restricted muscle tissue.
One of the most powerful exercises you can do for waking up every muscle is cross midline of the body, touching your hand to the opposite knee. Put your hands over your head and bring opposite knee to opposite hand in front of the body. Put hand back over head and repeat on the other side for twenty five repetitions.
Five Quick Tips:
In between moving, you can also help prevent back pain when travelling and ease any discomfort with the following:
- Take heat and gel packs to alleviate soreness. If travelling on a plane these may need to go into your hold luggage. Check with the airline if unsure.
- Take a neck or lower back support pillow.
- Drink plenty of water to hydrate your body and help reduce inflammation.
- Wear support belts / stockings for your lower back and calves to prevent stagnant blood flow.
- Use a golf ball or squash ball to roll on the floor with the bottom of your foot (not when driving!). This acupressure technique helps blood flow, nerve energy, and reduces muscle tension. Try putting the ball in a long sock so you can easily retrieve it if it rolls out from under your foot.
Travel does not have to be as stressful or painful. If you plan well, execute well and take care of our body while in transit the trip can be painless. And what better way to relax on vacation or arrive on business after travel, than stress free and pain free!
Should you have any questions or if you experienced any back or neck pain on your last trip, why not make an appointment to see a Chiropractor at either Bristol or Taunton in order to help prevent further occurances. Both clinics also sell travel pillows and support belts that can be used whilst you are away.
Call 01823 412489 (Taunton) or 0117 9298384 (Bristol) today.
From the Team at Archibald Chiropractic Clinics
"Treating the cause, not the symptoms"
Dowry Chiropractic Clinic Established in 1987 – Experienced Bristol Chiropractors
Bathpool Chiropractic Clinic Established 1960s – Experienced Taunton Chiropractors