Pain-Free and Healthy Travel Tips

Updated on March 15, 2021

Whether by car, plane, train or bus, extended travel can wreak havoc on the back and even on your diet if you are not careful.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, an estimated 80 percent of the population will experience a back problem at some point in their lives, and 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any given time. If you suffer from neck or back pain, it’s crucial to plan accordingly to prevent unnecessary strain on these areas. Be proactive with your travel strategies to ward off back discomfort during your trip.

Managing Luggage

Lifting heavy luggage is sure to contribute to back pain, especially if the bags are overfilled and not lifted properly. When transporting luggage, move slowly and bend at the knees. Use your leg muscles, rather than your back muscles, to lift. Carry heavy items as close to the body as possible, and avoid twisting the lower back when lifting. It’s best to distribute weight evenly on each side of the body. If you are carrying a shoulder bag, remember to switch sides often to avoid putting too much stress on one side of the back. Use these tips to manage your luggage while traveling.

  • Opt for rolling luggage (preferably with four wheels) instead of luggage that needs to be lifted.
  • Ask someone for help if you are having difficulty lifting your carry-on luggage into the overhead bin.
  • Pack two smaller suitcases instead of one large, heavy suitcase to distribute the weight more evenly.

Controlling Back Support

Seats in cars, planes, trains and other modes of transportation do not generally provide sufficient back support. It’s best to bring your own support with you. According to the McKinley Health Center, sitting for extended periods of time may result in stiffened lower back muscles, which can aggravate the back when you return to a standing position. To minimize discomfort, get up and move every 30 minutes. Aside from increasing blood flow to your muscles, moving frequently can also help prevent blood clots in your legs. Use these tips to help control your back pain.

  • Pack a travel lumbar pillow in your carry-on luggage and place it against your lower back. If you forget yours at home, a rolled up blanket, sweater or jacket can stand in.
  • Bring along an inflatable neck pillow to provide additional support for your neck or lower back.
  • Consider packing a travel foot rest. Placing your feet on something so your knees are elevated above your hips can reduce pressure on the lower back. A piece of luggage is a good substitution for a travel foot rest.

Eating Right

It’s also important to be sure to always eat healthy when you are on the go. Eating healthy while traveling is no easy feat. While travel might seem glamorous, it can wreak havoc on your diet. Fortunately, there are now apps that can help you to buy the right food and put the right type of nutrition in your body. 

Finding Pain Relief

No matter what you do to prevent it, there’s always a chance your back pain will flare up while traveling. WebMD suggests anti-inflammatory medications, such as over-the-counter, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Motrin) for back pain relief. If you plan to travel and suffer from chronic back pain, it’s best to speak with your physician about your concerns prior to your trip. Use these other tips to handle discomfort while traveling.

  • Pack instant cold and hot packs to apply to the affected area when back pain becomes uncomfortable. If you don’t have packs, fill a plastic bag with ice and apply it to the area.
  • Alternate between hot and cold packs for 10 to 15 minutes each to avoid exposure to one or the other for extended periods of time.
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