Regardless of your mode of transportation or the duration of your trip, effectively managing back pain while traveling can make your travels more enjoyable. It’s sometimes things like cramped leg room and uncomfortable or prolonged seating positions that aggravate joints and soft tissues around your spine. When certain precautions are taken, like the ones suggested here, you should be able to reduce your odds of dealing with distracting back pain while traveling.
Don’t Overload Bags
Pack as light as possible. Pulling around luggage, even if it’s only from the car to the airport check-in area, can quickly strain your lower back and spine-supporting muscles. Use luggage with wheels if you can’t avoid having a few heavy bags and keep any bags you’ll carry with you light.
Bring Support Pillows
Not every seat you have to sit in is going to provide sufficient support for your back. Be prepared by bringing a support pillow that targets the area where you feel pain. Lumbar pillows, for instance, can make long car trips more tolerable if you have lower back pain. Cervical pillows that prevent excessive force from affecting the cervical spine can reduce upper back and neck pain.
Lift Things Properly
Whenever you have to lift something while traveling, whether it’s luggage or bags of stuff you’ll buy while shopping, pay attention to your lifting technique. Bend at your knees and use your leg muscles to lift, not the ones supporting your lower back. Also, keep your back straight when lifting and your shoulders back. For heavy luggage you’ll need to lift into an overhead compartment, do it in stages by placing it on the seat below first and then lifting it upwards.
Find Ways to Move or Get Up
Sitting for hours on end can irritate soft tissues and contribute to inflammation. No matter how you are traveling, find ways to get up and move as much as possible. For those times when you’ll need to stay seated, shift your position frequently. Even doing a few simple stretches you can do while seated can help minimize muscle tension. And when driving, find time to pull over now and then to stretch and walk around.
Apply Heat or Ice
Should you have any back pain when you get to your destination, applying heat or ice can soothe your backache. Apply an ice pack or cooling gel first since it’s cold that eases inflammation. A heating pad or heat pack helps by increasing circulation and encouraging tissue healing.
If you are planning to travel by plane or train, pay attention to your seating preferences. Check seating charts or call ahead of time to find out things like how much leg room is available so you can pick a seat that’s not too cramped, or one where you won’t be forced into an awkward position. Talking to a doctor about your back pain before your trip may also be helpful, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a condition like degenerative disc disease or sciatica that may require more specific precautions.