Traveling with Back or Neck Pain

For many, summer means trips to visit friends and family, or vacations to exciting destinations. If you already suffer from regular back or neck pain, a long plane ride or cross-country road trip probably sounds like your worst nightmare. Even those who don’t suffer from chronic back or neck pain often experience pain while sitting still for extended periods of time in a car, airplane, bus, or train. Here are some tips from our back and neck experts at The Center to make your travel as comfortable as possible.

Check Your Posture

Many experts agree that practicing good posture is one of the best measures you can take to prevent back and neck pain. When you are seated for extended periods of time, it can be difficult to maintain perfect posture. Make sure your back is aligned against the back of your seat and that your headrest is supporting the weight of your head, taking stress off your neck. Keep your shoulders in a neutral position and avoid hunching forward. Keep your feet firmly and evenly planted on the floor or footrest. While perfect posture really comes down to preference of what feels comfortable, stay aware of your posture at all times and adjust as needed.

Take a Break

Moving and stretching the body prevents stiffness, aches, and muscle spasms. Your joints need movement and blood supply to function at their best. It may add some time to your trip but try to plan stops in advance and move or stretch every 30 minutes to one hour of travel. Sitting can also put tension on your legs, which can put pressure on your lower back. Be sure to gently stretch any body parts that feel tight or uncomfortable.

Pack Light

It’s safe to assume you’ll be lifting luggage in and out of the car, in and out of overhead bins, or up and down stairs at some point during your trip. Improperly lifting heavy luggage can result in back and neck injuries. Attempt to pack as lightly as possible for your trip, or opt to divide your belongings into several smaller bags instead of one large, heavy bag. Invest in a lightweight suitcase with wheels and a handle to avoid lifting. When removing luggage from overhead bins or car trunks, do so slowly and in stages, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are in pain.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water often falls to the back of our minds when dealing with all of the other logistics of traveling. Dehydration can lead to joint pain and stiffness, so try to sip water as often as possible during your trip. If you’re traveling by air, be especially conscious of drinking water as the low-humidity environment of planes can contribute to dehydration.

Plan Ahead

If you are prone to back or neck pain, bring some supplies with you that can help ease your pain if it does flare up. A cold pack is one of the quickest and easiest ways to find some relief for back or neck pain. If you don’t have the means to keep an ice pack cold on your trip, bringing a simple zip lock bag and asking for ice cubes will work just as well. Apply ice for 20 minutes at a time and repeat as needed, but not directly to the skin. Make sure to bring anti-inflammatories or any prescription medications you may need for pain. It is also worthwhile to bring your own lumbar support pillows or neck pillows to offer more support while seated. If you forget to bring yours, a rolled up jacket, sweater, or blanket will also do the trick.

If you are still concerned about back or neck pain while traveling, be sure to consult with your physician before your trip.