Secrets of Painless Travel

Whether traveling alone on business or on the way to a sunny resort with the family, long hours in a car or an airplane can leave anyone stressed, tired, stiff and sore. This summer, talk to your patients about safe and injury-free travel.
The Strain of Sitting
  • Prolonged sitting can wreak havoc on your body. Even if you travel in a comfortable car or fly first class, certain pressures and forces from awkward positions can restrict the blood flow, building up pressure in the blood vessels, especially in your lower legs.
  • Treat travel as an athletic event. Warm up before settling into a car or plane, and cool down once you reach your destination. 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 when you sit. Tuck a pillow behind your back and just above the beltline and put another pillow across the gap between your neck and the headrest. If the seat is hollowed from wear, use folded blankets to raise your buttocks.
  • Check all bags heavier than 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. While lifting your bags, stand in front of the overhead compartment. Do not lift your bags over your head, rotate your spine, or turn or twist your head and neck in the process.
  • 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. Instead, sit in your seat, and gently guide your bags under the seat directly in front of you with your hands and feet.
  • While seated, change your position occasionally to improve circulation and avoid leg cramps. Massage legs and calves. Bring your legs in, and move your knees up and down. Prop your legs up on a book or a bag under your seat.
  • Do not sit directly under the air controls. A draft can increase tension in neck and shoulder muscles.
Travel by Car
  • Sit as close to the steering wheel as comfortably possible, with knees slightly higher than your hips.
  • Using a back support may reduce the incidence of low-back strain and pain. 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, while keeping your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
  • Loosen and tighten your grip on the steering wheel to improve hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in the arms, wrists and hands.
  • While always 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 to avoid fatigue.
The Bottom Line
  • If you follow these simple tips, you can enjoy pain free, safe travel.
  • If you do experience pain and stress from travel, doctors of chiropractic are trained and licensed to diagnose and treat problems of the spine and nervous system.