Traveling is tough on your body in more ways than one…Here are a few tips and stretches to survive the trip without getting a pain in your neck or lower back.
Rule #1: No sitting for longer than 30-60 minutes without taking a break to stand up and stretch. Now, I know.. This one seems impossible, but getting up a few times on the plane or pulling into a gas station to stop and stretch is really important. First, it helps your blood flow better and prevents clots from forming in your lower legs. Second, getting up and changing positions re-lubricates your joints by moving them and putting pressure on different areas of the joint. Third, it helps to stretch your muscles and prevents cramping.
So don’t feel bad about sitting in the window seat and making the entire row stand up to let you out.. Think of it as a friendly way of taking care of all the health of all the people in your row 🙂
Rule #2: Stretch your Quadriceps muscles for at least 1 minute. The quadriceps muscle is the largest muscle in your body and will tighten up in the sitting position. If this muscle gets too tight it will pull on your spine giving you lower back pain and pain around the front of your knee cap. Stretching this one muscle before and after your flight or car trip can prevent immediate and long term back pain from developing. So here are a few examples of how to gently stretch your quads. The first picture is the easiest and the last picture is the most challenging.
|Chair quads stretch:||Standing quads stretch:||Kneeling on feet quads stretch:|
Rule #3: Back bends and Side Bending 10-15 times each. Sitting in airplane seats and car seats for long periods of time is not comfortable or ergonomic for most people. These seats promote you to sit in a C shape position. The C position is a loss of the lower back curvature, tightness in the front of your hips, rounded middle back/shoulders and a forward head. Basically the same terrible posture as an old, frail osteoporotic grandma (picture)… Not what you want. To reverse this curvature and help take pressure off your lower back you need to stretch backwards and side to side. This will move your spine out of the C position back into a more natural S curve (see picture).
Rule #4: Do NOT lift heavy suitcases by yourself. Thanks to all the increased prices for checking bags, carry on bags have gotten heavier and heavier. These bags can weigh up to 50 pounds depending on how tightly you can pack everything and how much the roller bags weigh by themselves. Rotator cuff injuries happen most frequently when you lift heavy objects overhead or when you pull heavy objects behind you.. The exact motions that occur when moving suitcases around. PLEASE, have a friend or stranger help you get your bags overhead especially if you are short. The shorter you are the more strain it is to get the bag up and that can cause a back injury as well as a shoulder injury. Make sure to rotate arms that you use to pull your suitcase and when you do have to lift it use your legs.
Rule #5: Stretch your neck and shoulders. Start by rolling your shoulders up/down/back. You don’t need to roll them forward because they will naturally do that position but really focus on pulling them back to stretch your chest and improve your posture. Then gently stretch your neck from side to side or rotate from right to left. While you are sitting in the car or on the plane try to keep you head on the headrest and not let it just hang forward. Keep the chin slightly down so that you stretch the back of your neck and make it longer. (see picture) This will help to decrease pressure points from building up around your upper shoulders.
As a general side note: Drink LOTS of water! Traveling is very dehydrating, especially flying when the cabin pressures changes. Drinking water frequently will help keep you feeling refreshed, it may encourage you to get up and go to the bathroom more frequently and it will aide in your body staying loose and not cramping.
Safe and Happy Travels!