You've been in the car or the plane for hours, your back is aching and your legs are stiff and sore; you can't wait to stand up and get moving again. We've all been there. This summer, plan for a pain-free travel experience by making small changes that can make a big difference in how you feel once your reach your destination, advises the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
"Prolonged sitting causes a buildup of pressure in the blood vessels in your lower legs, which causes soreness" explains Scott Bautch, DC, president of the ACA Council on Occupational Health. "Simple moves, such as stretching or contracting and relaxing your muscles, can increase blood flow."
"Treat travel like an athletic event," he suggests. "Warm up before getting into a car or on the plane, and cool down once you reach your destination. For example, taking a short, brisk walk to stretch your hamstring and calf muscles before and after a long trip can help prevent problems."
Consider these additional tips for healthier travels:
Travel by Car
- Adjust the seat so you are as close to the steering wheel as comfortably possible.
- Progress through a series of muscle stretches when driving: 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. Always make sure to put safety first and keep your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
- Do not grip the steering wheel. Instead, alternate tightening and loosening your grip occasionally to improve hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in the arms, wrists and hands.
- Take rest breaks and take the opportunity to move around to refresh yourself. Never underestimate the potential consequences of fatigue to yourself, your passengers and other drivers.
Travel by Airplane
- Stand up straight and feel the normal "S" curve of your spine. To prevent back pain, use rolled-up pillows or blankets to maintain that curve when you sit in your seat.
- Check all bags heavier than 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. Overhead lifting of any significant amount of weight should be avoided to reduce the risk of pain in the lower back or neck.
- When pushing your 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.
- While seated, vary your position occasionally to improve circulation and avoid leg cramps.