Many people will travel during the next few months, and whether it is by plane or car there are a few simple tips to remember to avoid body aches and pains, and even life threatening issues.
As a physical therapist many patients ask about different ways to avoid low back pain while traveling. A simple answer is a lumbar support, which looks like a small pillow but is curved to support the low back. This can be used by people with or without low back problems and can be small enough to travel with on a plane. There are larger lumbar supports that can be used in the car during long road trips, as well. Although this is a helpful tool, another tip that is important to remember is to try to get up from your seat on a plane or out of your car for a stretch as often as possible.
Depending on what type of back problems a person may have, sitting longer than an hour can make their final destination a disaster! Imagine flying four hours to your favorite vacation spot and you are in pain as soon as you get there and for several days after! Try to avoid this by getting up every hour on the plane and just walking up and down the aisle.
Another issue that may arise while traveling and sitting too long are circulation problems. When the feet and legs are in the "dependent" or down position for too long naturally swelling can occur, but this can lead to a major problem. Blood clots in the legs can happen from lack of movement, but are more common in people with bad circulation. Pumping the ankles (pointing and flexing) for 1-2 minutes every so often is one way to avoid this. Many people wear knee high compression stockings while traveling on long plane flights to avoid swelling. These stockings do not need to be very tight, just enough to keep swelling down while sitting for hours. Again getting up and walking around will help, but while sitting move the feet and ankles as much as possible.
Ask your doctor if you are at risk for any of these issues when going on long trips, either by car or plane so pain will not be something on your mind while traveling this summer!
Contributed by Krista Magnoli, PTA and Nancy Whelan, PT @ The Physical Therapy Center in West Palm Beach, FLorida.