Keep Your Back Pain In Check When Traveling

Have Suitcase - Will TravelAh, the joy (and by that I mean the agony) of taking back pain on vacation with us! There are some easy tricks to help keep your back pain in check when traveling though.  Unfortunately when you suffer from back pain, you have to think about every move you make.  But these simple tips should make travel an easy challenge to master.

In fact, we should already be combatting our suffering with most of these basic principles on a regular basis.  When you break it down, I’m talking about movement, posture, prevention and protection.  Is it just me or are you also starting to realize that these four common sense practices are the prevailing theme whenever we discuss coping with back pain?

8 Travel Tips For Back Pain Victims 

1) Avoid Prolonged Sitting

It’s recommended that you get up from your seat and stretch or walk around every 20 to 30 minutes. This will help prevent your back from becoming stiff as well as stimulate blood flow and oxygen to your muscles. On the plane, obviously, you can just get up out of your seat. But in the car, you may want to try at least a few seated exercises (as a passenger NOT as the driver), if stopping so often is too inconvenient.

2) Use Good Posture

Well always, but especially when sitting in this case.  Keep the stress off your back by sitting up straight and all the way back in your seat.  Feet should be flat on the floor or you can use a footrest if its needed.  Your head should be supported in the middle by your headrest and do not slouch or hunch your shoulders.  Sometimes it’s more comfortable to sit in the back seat (again, so long as you’re not doing the driving).

3) Be Wise With Your Luggage

Of course it goes without saying that you should pack light and take only the necessities.  Suitcases with wheels are helpful as well.  But most importantly, use proper lifting techniques which means lifting with your legs not your back.  Also do not twist or rush yourself when lifting and try alternating sides periodically for any shoulder bags.

4) Stretching, Stretching, Stretching

At bedtime, at wake-up and periodically throughout the day, try incorporating a quick (2-3 minute) and simple stretching routine that can be done anywhere.  Stretching your hamstrings and hip flexor muscles can be of particular importance but some good overall stretching may be helpful as well.  I highly recommend getting this Stretching book (if you don’t already own a copy) not just because it includes specific travel stretches but because you can use it everyday!

5) Get Your Rest

Sure, go ahead and take advantage of passenger time by napping but please don’t forget to get your full night’s sleep in as well.  Traveling is considered a stressful experience and even though we take vacations to relax, we’re usually more active than in our real lives.  Combine that with not getting enough sleep and you’re just asking for a back pain flare-up.  Ever felt like you needed a vacation right after you got back from one?  Well, that’s why.

6) Try Ice And/Or Heat Therapy

Ice can help reduce inflammation, heat can relieve aching muscles and many find alternating between the two quite therapeutic.  There’s inexpensive and convenient ways for both (e.g. a baggie filled with ice or a hot water bottle).  Even some back pain creams and rubs can be used effectively.  See Is Heat Or Ice Better For Back Pain and Back Pain Creams for more information.

7) Don’t Forget The Essentials

If you’re able to take them, it’s a good idea to have over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofren or NSAIDs readily available.  You might also want to consider a lumbar support pillow for the extended sitting periods.  In a pinch, a rolled up towel or blanket can do the trick as well.  Of course, bring along any necessary prescription medication but please know and adhere to any usage restrictions or warnings.

8) Get Assistance

Check with your doctor beforehand for any recommendations for your particular situation.  Also if you need extra help (like handicap parking, wheelchair access, a boarding pass when you book, etc.), be organized and call ahead to make arrangements.  You may also want to consider traveling either by car or by plane during off-peak hours.  In the car, traffic can extend sitting time and you more likely to get stretching room on a less crowded flight.  Navigating through a “quiet” airport may be easier as well.

So away you go with the confidence to manage your back pain and focus on having fun instead.  Since I won’t be traveling this year, please let me know where you’re going so I can dream!  Any other questions or comments would also be greatly appreciated.

Have a great and safe trip,


Image Credit: By Producer (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

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