Preventing Travel Aches and Strains
Traveling can be rough on the body. Whether you are traveling alone on business or on your way to a sunny
resort with your family, long hours in a car or an airplane can leave you stressed, tired, stiff and sore. "Prolonged sitting can wreak havoc on your body," says Dr. Scott Bautch, a past president of the American Chiropractic Association's (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. "Even if you travel in the most comfortable car or opt to fly first class, certain pressures and forces from awkward positions can result in restricted blood flow. One of the biggest insults to your system from prolonged sitting is the buildup of pressure in the blood vessels in your lower legs. Contracting and relaxing the muscles helps the blood flow properly." Dr. Bautch and the ACA suggest the following tips and advice to fight the strains of travel before they occur.
Warm Up, Cool Down
• Treat travel as an athletic event. Warm up before settling into a car or plane, and cool down once
you reach your destination. Take a brisk walk to stretch your hamstring and calf muscles.
In an Airplane
• Stand up straight and feel the normal "S" curve of your spine. Then use rolled-up pillows or blankets
to maintain that curve when you sit in your seat. Tuck a pillow behind your back and just above the beltline and lay another pillow across the gap between your neck and the headrest. If the seat is hollowed from wear, use folded blankets to raise your buttocks a little.
• Check all bags heavier than 5to 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. While lifting your bags, stand right in front of the overhead compartment so the spine is not rotated. Do not lift your bags over your head, or turn or twist your head and neck in the process.
• When stowing belongings under the seat, do not force the object with an awkward motion using your legs, feet or arms. This may cause muscle strain or spasms in the upper thighs and lower back muscles. Instead, 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. Massage legs and calves. Bring your legs in, and move your knees up and down. Prop your legs up on a book or a bag under your seat.
• Do not sit directly under the air controls. A draft can increase tension in neck and shoulder muscles.
Travel By Car
• Adjust the seat so you are as close to the steering wheel as comfortably possible. Your knees should be slightly higher than your hips. Place four fingers