Are we there yet? Spring marks the beginning of the travel season. Whether traveling alone or with the family, long hours in a car, train or airplane can leave you stressed, tired, stiff and sore. Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center’s rehabilitation services department suggests these things you can do to help make your trip a positively memorable one.
In an Airplane
- Sit straight up. Use rolled-up pillows or blankets to maintain the curve in your neck and low back when you sit in your seat.
- Check all bags heavier than 10 percent of your body weight.
- Overhead lifting of any significant amount of weight should be avoided to reduce the risk of pain in the lower back or neck.
- When storing belongings under the seat, sit in your seat first and using your hands and feet, gently guide your bags under the seat directly in front of you.
- While seated, vary your position occasionally to improve circulation and avoid leg cramps.
- Direct air controls so thet are not blowing on you. The draft can increase tension in your neck and shoulders muscles.
In the Car
- Adjust the seat so you are close to the steering wheel as comfortably as possible.
- Consider a back support. Using a support behind your back may reduce the risk of low back strain, pain or injury.
- Exercise your legs to reduce the risk of swelling, fatigue or discomfort. Move your feet up and down. Open your toes as wide as you can. Count to five while you tighten your gluteal (buttock) muscles. Roll your shoulders forward and back.
- To minimize arm and hand tension while driving, hold the steering wheel at approximately 3 o’clock and 7 o’clock, periodically switching to 10 o’clock and 5 o’clock.
- Do not tightly grip the steering wheel. Instead tighten and loosen your grip to improve hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in the arms, wrists, and hands.
- While always being careful to keep you eyes on the road, vary your focal point while driving to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and tension headaches.
- Empty your pockets. Sitting on your wallet or other bulging items in your back pockets during a road trip can cause pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in your legs and hips.
Take a Break
When you are planning a road trip, allow extra time for breaks so you can get out of the car and stretch your neck, back, legs, arms and hips. Frequent breaks refresh you mentally as well as physically. Try these stretching exercises at each stop during your road trip.
- In a lunge position, place your right foot on a bench or step at or above knee height and place both hands, palms down, on your right knee, keeping your left leg straight. Lean in slightly, hold the position for 30 seconds and then repeat with your other leg.
- While standing, raise your arms above your head and clasp your fingers together, palms upward and facing away from you. Look up at your hands, hold the pose for 30 seconds and then relax.
- While standing, bring your shoulders back. Clasp your hands behind your back then move them away from your body. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Rotate your head clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Hold on to the car door for support. Bend one knee and grab your ankle. Hold for 30 seconds, relax. Do opposite side.
- Put one foot up on a picnic table, keeping your knee straight. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your knee. Hold for 30 seconds, relax. Do on the opposite side.
- Stand on your toes and heels a few times.
Travel Hot and Cold Packs
Cinci Weaver, director of the rehab services department at Claxton-Hepburn adds, “Homemade hot and cold travel packs are easy to make and use.” She continued, “For a hot pack, simply cut the sleeve off of an old flannel shirt and sew up one end and fill with one to two pounds of dry barley, sew up the other end and it is ready for any microwave…whether in a convenience store on the road or at home.” She concludes, “To make a gel cold pack, double up two zip lock bags and pour in one cup rubbing alcohol and four cups of water and stick it in the freezer…it’s that easy.”