The holiday season is upon us, and in the coming weeks millions of Americans will travel by planes, trains and automobiles to get home or visit relatives across the country. Traveling can be fun, but it can also be physically challenging on your body, especially if you are recovering after surgery or dealing with a degenerative condition like osteoarthritis. We want you to be as comfortable as possible when you’re traveling this holiday season, so in today’s blog, we’ve decided to share some PT-approved tips for making your holiday travel a little easier on your body.
Holiday Travel Tips From Your Physical Therapist
Many people with underlying back, neck or leg issues dread spending a long time in a car. Being confined to one position for an extended period is more physically challenging than many people realize. Static stress is being placed on the same muscle groups for hours on end, and that can serve to weaken or even injure certain soft tissues. If you want to minimize the physical effects that traveling has on your body, keep these tips in mind:
- Move Around – If you stop for gas or the captain takes off the seat belt light, take advantage of the moment. Stand up and move around a bit to help relieve this static stress and to boost your circulation. Even if you’re just standing and moving for a minute or two, your muscles will be thankful for stress relief.
- Leave Early – Building off the last point, consider leaving a little bit early if you’ll be driving to your destination this year. If you build some time into your trip for pit stops, you can pull over whenever you need a moment to stretch your legs. If you’re running late, you may not want to pull over, and that can make the drive even harder on your body.
- Bring Comfort Items – Pack a small pillow, towel or neck cushion so that it’s easier for you to find a comfortable position during your travel. Pillows and neck cushions can make it easier to get comfortable in a plane seat, while a small towel can be placed behind the small of your back when you’re in a vehicle to help naturally push your spine into a healthy alignment.
- Prepare For Limited Movement – Before you step in the car or board the plane and are stuck in a seat for a while, prepare for this limited movement. Do some light stretches or take a couple over-the-counter pain relievers to keep minor discomfort at bay. Don’t sit on the couch or by your boarding gait for an hour only to stand for a couple minutes before sitting in your seat for an extended period. Walk around and stretch in the minutes leading up to departure.
- Sit Correctly – It can be easy to slouch in your car or hunch forward and scroll on your phone if someone else is getting you to your destination, but having poor posture during your travel can really cause problems for your back and neck. Strive to have an ideal seated posture with your head positioned directly above your shoulders in order to limit excessive stress on your lumbar or cervical spine.
- Do Your PT Exercises – Finally, if you have some home-based PT exercises that you have been doing as part of your rehabilitation or strength training program, consider doing some exercises when you have time during your travels. Do a couple exercises when you’re pumping gas or while you’re waiting for your layover, and your body will be stronger for it.
We want you to enjoy the holiday season and avoid acute or chronic aches as a result of your time spent traveling over the holidays. For more individualized advice, or for help overcoming a specific physical issue, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.