The holidays are a magical time of the year. But if you endure lower back pain, this can be a very challenging time to celebrate. People suffering from back pain require particular precautions when they travel as they possess a higher risk of additional back injuries that may aggravate chronic pain. Above all, you may have to carry your luggage, sit for an extended period in the seat with poor support, or rest on an uncomfortable bed.
To help make sure you’re celebrating the holiday season without pain, here are a few helpful holiday travel tips to keep in mind before you leave home.
5 Holiday-Related Back Pain Causes
Long Airplane or Car Trips
Sitting in a restricted airplane seat for a long time can add to your back pain, considering travel can be stressful for some.
Driving to visit family and friends may require even longer travel hours as you tend to spend more time out-of-town with some guests.
Visit rest stops regularly during car trips, even if you don’t feel the need to use the bathroom. Stretching your legs and allowing your back to shift position can prevent a lot of pain in the long run. Since you only have less space to move around on an airplane, consider standing up several times throughout your flight.
Putting up Decorations
Decorating your home this holiday season with festive lights or arrayed garlands can foster a massive holiday delight, yet can also affect your back.
If you plan to climb on a ladder, bend, twist, and swing a hammer to attach some decorations, remember to stretch before and after to help warm up your muscles - especially your legs and arms to avoid back pain.
All that cooking you do for the holidays can affect your back. Standing for hours in the kitchen can alter your posture, as you tend to stand with one leg over the other. Standing for an extended period places a lot of pressure on your spine, causing muscles in your lower back to compress.
Waiting in Line
It is the season for gift shopping and waiting in queues for the checkout line, airport security, or amusement rides during your holiday vacation. All that standing can hurt your back and even numb your knees.
While waiting in line, keep moving as much as possible. You can also do subtle movements if you don't feel like stretching (admit it, some may feel uncomfortable); you can try these to avoid drawing too much attention:
- Retie your shoes
- Drop something non-fragile (a coin, your hat, or a pen) and lean down to pick it up
- Take off or put on a coat (this encourages you to stretch a little bit)
As we all know, waiting in line may be boring but try to avoid staring at your phone as it prompts your neck in a bent position and may contribute to back pain sooner or later.
It may sound surprising, but indulging too much food over the holidays can put pressure on your vertebrae, causing back pain. According to Newport Natural Health, excess weight around your midsections can put strain on our spines. The more you eat, the more your stomach pushes away from your back, shifting your posture and alignment. To avoid this and still able to enjoy sumptuous food this holiday, here's our suggestion:
Serve up your plates by starting with a small serving and going back if you want more. This way, it takes time for the food to reach your stomach and might help you stop eating once you're full.
If you're enduring pain after every meal consistently, talk to your doctor as it may be a sign of a more severe health issue.
How to Avoid Back Pain During Holiday Travels
We all need to enjoy a less hassle and stress-free vacation without enduring back pain or injury. To help achieve that, here are some handy holiday travel tips for maintaining a healthy spine.
- When bending down to pick up your luggage, your position must be standing over your suitcase. By doing this, you can bring your things closer to your chest without having to shift your body weight. Turning like this has the potential to affect your balance or may cause shoulder or elbow pain.
- When lifting any object, the weight must be as close to your body as possible. Lift from the bottom securely of the bag to maintain a more stable grip.
- Bend with your knees and hips carefully into a squat position, keeping your spine in a neutral position. Your squat's depth must depend on the size and weight of your luggage.
- When returning to a standing position, your legs must act as the driving force of motion when lifting your baggage. Evenly distribute the weight through your feet and squeeze with your glutes and quads together until you achieve an upward standing position.
Watch Your Weight
The weight of your baggage defines how deeply you'll have to squat. The heavier the bag, the deeper you need to squat.
- Ask for help if your bag is too heavy to lift single-handed to avoid yourself from getting injured carrying a massive load.
- Try separating your tasks by lifting the bag first onto a higher surface like a chair before reaching the final stop.
- Avoid using your back muscles when lifting your luggage.
- Opt for a bag with wheels rather than a carry-on bag to appropriately distribute your weight and reduce stress on your body.
Take Your Prescribed Meds
Holidays are fast approaching, and we usually forget to take our pain meds during the trips. Missing a few doses will likely make the pain worse, requiring you to put even more effort into managing it sooner or later.
Set the alarm or reminder so you wouldn't miss or forget about taking your pain medications with you whenever or wherever you go this holiday season.
Pack & Unpack Efficiently
You tend to stand over your luggage, trying to fit in as many outfits as you can for your holiday getaway. In this case, you have to make sure you're still maintaining your spine's neutral alignment. And when you unpack, remember to bend forward with your hips and knees till you are directly over the bag's opening. Avoid leaning.
Get Up & Move
Keep moving! Your body will thank you for that.
Allowing your body to move for at least 30 minutes can reduce your muscles and joints' stiffness and pain. It can also improve the circulation of nutrients throughout your spinal column. Go for short, frequent walks or perform light stretches to release the tightness on your neck.
Sitting for hours while traveling on a plane or car can be uncomfortable, so make sure you're securely positioned during the entire flight.
- Neck support: You can place a rolled-up sweater, blanket, or any soft fabric that can fit comfortably in between your neck and the back of the chair. It will help your neck to settle in a natural alignment with the rest of your spine. You can opt for a neck pillow while making sure it doesn't push your head too much forward.
- Lumbar support: Placing a lumbar support in the area of your lumbar curve will unload pressure on the lower sections of your spine. It alleviates and prevents upper and mid-back pain, as it comes with a built-in lumbar roll. These rolls are designed to support your lower back when sitting, perfect when you're traveling.
- Armrests: If your seat doesn't have arm support, you can always use a pillow and place it in your lap or to your side. Having arm support will promote proper neck alignment and lessen the pressure on your lower back – which is particularly beneficial for longer flights.
- Footrests: To reduce the tension on your lower back, make sure your feet are comfortably settled on the floor along with your hips and knees, bent to a 90-degree angle. Place a sturdy material under your feet if you can't reach the bottom.
Managing pain is challenging, but it's essential to be mindful of what you can do to keep your pain levels low and your spirits high during the holidays. We hope you find these holiday travel tips useful to prevent back pain when you're on vacation. If the pain persists, always seek your doctor's guidance for appropriate treatments.