It's the end of summer and many people are making those last minute summer traveling plans. If you have chronic back and leg pain and are worried about what travel and long car rides may do to your pain level, read these easy tips below.
What To Pack
Invest in your luggage. Pick a smaller, manageable bag with wheels on the bottom. If you still need to bring another bag, try a smaller one that can fit on top of the rolling bag so you won’t have to carry it. Carrying excess weight like a heavy bag or even a heavy purse can cause unnecessary strain on your neck, back, and shoulders. If you have to use a larger suitcase, be very careful when lifting. Make sure you are using proper body mechanics. Don’t lift with your back, remember to use your knees. Muscle strain is often a result of heavily or improper lifting.
We all know how important good posture is. Good posture entails keeping the neck and low back straight (avoid slouching), the shoulders back, and arms comfortably at your sides. This promotes the natural curvature in the spine and decreases muscle strain in the shoulders. Tightening your core will help you maintain this posture. Many times when we are sitting at work in front of a computer or in a car during a long car trip, we forget to maintain this posture. We tend to slump our shoulders forward and slouch forward. This may feel comfortable in the moment, but you will likely feel the pain later when you change positions.
Driving can be especially hard on people with chronic low back pain. Ideally, rest breaks should be taken every 20 minutes which would allow you to get up and move about. Frequent rest breaks and stretching decrease the risk of muscle strain. When you are driving, make sure your seat is elevated such that your hips are level with your knees. Placing a small pillow or lumbar support designed for car seats behind the small of your back can help support your back for those long car rides. Also, make sure you check your seat position in relation to the brake and gas pedals. You shouldn't be too far or too close to the foot pedals. And of course, wear your seat belt!
Getting out of the car and doing a quick 5-minute walk will help move multiple muscles and prevent overall stiffness. To target the back, try a quick stretch in which you bend down as much as you can (as if you were going to touch your toes without bending your knees) and hold that stretch for a count of 20. Then do the same stretch but pivot a little at the waist towards the left side, then the right side. Hold the stretch on each side for another count of 20. This stretches out both the lower back muscles and the hamstrings. If you can't take a full rest break to walk, try small exercises with your legs and feet. Roll one ankle in a clockwise direction 10 times, then do the same in the opposite direction. Do this with each ankle. Pump your feet up and down at the ankle to increase blood flow in the legs for a count of 20. This can also prevent blood clots in the legs which is another risk of prolonged sitting.
These helpful hints can decrease the risk of making chronic pain worse while traveling. Chronic pain is stressful, but using the right body mechanics can decrease the risk of pain exacerbations and not let pain get in the way of your summer travel plans.
For more information, contact Pain Medicine Group in Orlando or come in for a full evaluation.