The Holidays are here! December brings time filled with family, food, celebration and travel. Christmas time in Canada is the busiest time of year for travellers and the winter weather can make getting home for Christmas a test in patience.
To keep yourself comfortable and merry this holiday season, consider the following the 5 travel tips for the holidays:
1. Get comfortable immediately
Take the time to get settled and comfortable at the beginning of your trip. Don’t have your wallet or cell phone in your back pocket. These items throw your spine out of alignment. The smallest irritant in the beginning of your trip can turn into pain later. Also consider wearing multiple layers of clothing this travel season to keep yourself from getting to hot or too cold on your journey.
2. Pay attention to your posture
Keep your chin tucked in slightly so that your head sits in line with your shoulders. Make sure that your back is aligned against the back of your seat. Sit up straight with your knees slightly higher than your hips where possible. This position avoids transferring stress to your lower back. This means if your seat is too high, it is best to put your feet on a footrest. If you are the driver, use cruise control to have both feet on the floor for periods of time. When it comes to getting comfy for a long trip, there is no one solution and it may take some effort to find what works best for you.
3. Bring your own back support
Seats in cars, trains and planes don’t always provide the right type of support for the lower back and neck. A lumbar support can be used to make your seat more comfortable and support your back. If you don’t have one or forget to bring it, a jacket, sweater or blanket rolled up can help in a pinch. An active and dynamic lumbar support like a Back Vitalizer (sold at both our clinics) travels easily and offers support for prolonged periods of sitting. An inflatable travel pillow that fits around the neck can help avoid neck strain by providing head support while resting or sleeping in a sitting position during travel.
4. Get up and move around
Your body is designed to move. Prolonged sitting in one position will cause your joints and back muscles to stiffen which can lead to pain and muscle spasm. Plan ahead to schedule stops where possible—ideally every 45-60 minutes. Get out of the car to move around and stretch. If you are traveling by train or plane, take walk up and down the aisles. Movement stimulates blood circulation, which brings nutrients and oxygen to your lower back and joints.
In between exercise breaks, try moving a little in your seat. Even 10 seconds of movement and stretching is better than sitting still. Pump your ankles to keep the blood flowing and provide a stretch to your restless legs.
5. Lift right
In the flurry of packing for your vacation, it’s easy to get carried away and pack everything but the kitchen sink into your suitcase and carry-on. Over-packed luggage and improper lifting and carrying techniques are common causes of injury to the back, neck and shoulders.
To avoid injury, move slowly when lifting a heavy piece of luggage and break the action into smaller parts whenever possible. For example, when lifting a bag into an overhead bin, it can first be lifted to the top of the seat, then into the bin in a separate motion. Similarly, loading a suitcase in the trunk of a car can be broken into to steps, such as lifting it first to a chair or step stool, then lifting it into the trunk.
Other important lifting tips include:
- When possible, place items in a few smaller bags, instead of one large luggage piece.
- Ensure your carry-on luggage does not weigh more than 10-15% of your body weight.
- Bend at the knees and use your legs rather than stressing the back when lifting.
- Avoid twisting at the waist while lifting. Instead, pivot with your feet and turn your whole body.
- Carry heavy items as close to your body as possible.
- Distribute weight evenly on each side of the body.
- If carrying a bag over one shoulder, switch sides often to avoid stressing the neck and shoulder.
Keep the stress of traveling to a minimum and make your journey more pleasurable with these travel tips. Awareness of common mistakes such as those mentioned above will help you to avoid injury from improper lifting or sitting postures. A little planning ahead of time will make this holiday season’s travel as comfortable as possible so you feel your best spending time with those most important.