The summer holidays are coming and I hope you are looking forward to a nice break somewhere.
Having treated lots of people before or after their holidays, here are a few tips to help you complete your journey without injury. There are just a few ideas about getting there and back safely, what you do while you’re there is up to you!
Many travel-related injuries that I deal with are due to lifting or carrying luggage. Often people have been sitting for hours and then they have to rush to drag their luggage off a carousel or haul it out of a hold. This is a bit like an Olympic weight-lifter getting out of bed and leaping into competition without any warm-up.
Walking off the plane and waiting in the baggage lounge is your opportunity to warm-up: gentle bending and stretching will help bring blood back into the muscles of your back. Don’t be in a hurry: wait for the carousel to bring the bag to you, rather than racing to catch up with it. Look at how your bag is lying as it comes towards you. Visualise where you’re going to grasp it, and how you’re going to lift it. Grabbing with both hands is often easier, and places less strain on the neck, shoulders and lower back. Try not to twist your body while holding a heavy suitcase- pivot with your feet instead. Use trolleys if they are available.
Packing lightly can help reduce the load, especially hand luggage, which needs to be lifted high and pushed into the overhead locker. If you think this will aggravate your neck or shoulder don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendants for help.
Carrying two smaller bags rather than one big bag is more balanced and easier on your back. Suitcases with wheels are good for long airport corridors but rucksacks are easier to carry over uneven terrain like cobbled streets or stairs.
“I must have slept funny in the hotel bed”
People also come to me complaining of back or neck pain after sleeping in uncomfortable beds or with pillows that don’t suit them. Everyone’s taste in beds is different so this can be a hard one to advise on. As rule of thumb, use one pillow if you’re lying on your back, and two pillows if you’re on your side. If the pillows are too fat for your neck, try using a folded towel instead. A towel can also help underneath a pillow that’s lost its stuffing. Don’t be afraid to ask hotel staff for alternative pillows or even another room if you’re not happy with your sleeping arrangements.
With long hours traveling, or with jet lag, exhaustion may play a role too. Normally we shift positions during the night, but sleeping too deeply can mean we remain in awkward positions for too long. This can place a strain on joints in the back or neck. So do some gentle stretching before you go to sleep. It may be the last thing you want to do before you finally crash into the hotel bed but it might help you wake up happier. There are some ideas on stretches to do when you wake up on this blog here.
Some people like the U-shaped neck pillows for sleeping in airplane seats. If you want to use one I would buy it in advance to see if it works for you, and experiment with towels and other padding to find the best support for your neck before you travel.