Monday, February 13, 2017

Managing Muscle & Joint Pain While Travelling

By Dr. R. Greg Lusk, DC

Along with the weather, winter get-away travel plans are a common topic of conversation this time of year while making small talk with clients.  Upcoming travel is also a driving force for some to have a painful complaint checked out as they are dreading the travel process ahead and are hopeful that the pain can be lessened so they can enjoy the vacation as originally planned.  Even for those that book an initial appointment a mere few days before departure, which doesn't allow much time for treatment to yield results, learning some key things to keep in mind or do while travelling can empower them to manage their symptoms independently.

Let's start with luggage as managing a heavy suitcase can be difficult even when you're not in pain.  Try to be restrictive in what you pack to lessen the overall weight and consider multiple bags versus a single large and heavy one if you cannot pack light.  Use wheels and pull handles if available.  Lift luggage with a straight back, bend at your hips and knees, and avoid twisting through the spine.  Lifting in stages can also help avoid excessive strain.  For example, when lifting a bag into an overhead bin, it can first be lifted to the top of the seat and then into the bin in a separate action. Similarly, loading a suitcase in or out of the trunk can be broken into steps, such that you lift the bag onto the bumper or edge of the trunk and then into the actual trunk.

Prolonged sitting, while either waiting in a terminal or in a mode of transportation (e.g. car, train, plane, etc.) is a reality of travelling that can lead to pain and stiffness throughout the body.  The seats often don't provide much support to the low back or neck so you may need to bring or create your own.  You could purchase a lumbar support cushion, use a bunched-up sweater, or roll up a blanket or towel to put in the small of your back.  With respect to your neck, using a travel pillow that fits around your neck will decrease your risk of discomfort while resting or sleeping in a seated position.  Hips and knees can also get quite stiff with extended time spent sitting, particularly in crammed airline seats where you cannot stretch out, and especially if you have pain or arthritis in those joints.  If possible, stand up regularly, every 30-60 minutes, to stretch out and walk around.

In general, moving as much as possible is recommended but even short durations of 10-15 seconds are better than nothing.  Even simple exercises performed while sitting can be quite helpful.  For example, you can raise your heels up and down while keeping your toes on the ground and then lift and lower your toes while keeping your heels down.  You can also tighten and relax the muscles in your legs and if space permits straighten and bend your knees.  The motion will limber you up and promote blood circulation to your tissues.  The improved blood flow also decreases your risk of developing a blood clot in your legs, known as a Deep Vein Thrombosis, which can occur due to prolonged sitting or inactivity and is a significant health concern.

Wearing loose fitting clothing to allow easy movement and staying well hydrated are other suggestions to minimize muscle aches and maximize comfort when travelling.  This article is for general information purposes only and is not to be taken as professional medical advice.