It’s summertime and you know what that means, summer travel is in full swing. As I was traveling over the holiday (July 4th) and in listening to patients at their appointments recently, I realized just how hard travel can be on the body.
People often return from trips complaining of the pillows, sleeping on beds that aren’t their own, and just how uncomfortable planes, trains, and automobiles really are. Along with those complaints come complaints about their aching back or neck as a result of the aforementioned travel modalities or sleeping arrangements. In fact, at our office we often schedule appointments around peoples’ return travel dates, knowing that they will be feeling a bit beat up upon their return. Instead of waiting to be fixed up after your trip, I thought it might be helpful to offer some tips for preventing these aches and pains from developing while traveling in the first place.
Below are my top 5 tips for decreasing pain and discomfort as a result of traveling:
My first suggestion to prevent pain while traveling is to bring your own pillow. This may not always be possible, I understand. However, whenever it is possible it can make a big difference in preserving your comfort and preventing pain when traveling. So if you’re able to, add that to your packing list!
My second suggestion is to try to maintain your routine as much as possible while you are traveling. This means, if you typically get 7 hours or sleep, try to stick with 7 hours of sleep while on vacation. It also means that if you go for daily walks, continue to go for daily walks. They don’t have to be as long as your usual walk if your schedule doesn’t allow for it, but something is better than nothing. Other routines to stick with while traveling are your morning/evening routines and your workout routine as best you can. Meaning, if you work out most work days or 3 days a week, try to do that same schedule while you are traveling. Even if it is a less intense or different style of movement than you are used to. This ensures that you maintain your self-care routines while on the road, which helps your nervous system to feel regulated.
Along those lines, my third suggestion for preventing discomfort as a result of traveling is to prioritize movement. You’re on vacation, right? Or at the very least you’re away from the demands of home, which implies that you may have a few more spare moments. Use those moments to stretch or move in some capacity. If you don't have access to a gym, that’s ok. YouTube is a great resource for hotel workouts, bodyweight HIIT workouts, yoga classes, and more. If you have the time and you’re feeling up to it, you may want to see if a local gym has a free week special or allows for drop-ins (most do). If you can’t find a way to work out while traveling or you truly don’t have the time, focus on stretching. Youtube is also a great place to find ways to stretch your body. Check out our YouTube channel for ideas here. Movement truly is medicine and can be very helpful for preventing stiffness and discomfort related to travel from developing by promoting blood flow, lubricating your joints, and maintaining ranges of motion.
Speaking of lubrication, another way to reduce the onset of soreness and stiffness is by drinking adequate amounts of water. Staying hydrated hydrates your tissues, think muscles and other soft tissues, which can contribute to less friction when moving and an overall reduction in muscular tension. We typically suggest drinking half your body weight in ounces to be adequately hydrated. This is also true while traveling. You may want to consider increasing that amount if you are traveling by plane, going to a hotter location, or drinking more alcohol than usual (hello bachelor/bachelorette parties). In addition to drinking regular water, it is important to consume electrolytes with your water. Examples of electrolytes are sea salt, Nuun tablets, or Liquid IV pouches. Go ahead and add a water bottle/electrolytes to your packing list, along with your pillow!
Lastly, I suggest that everyone travels with a lacrosse ball. This is one of my favorite mobility tools and it’s so easy to pack! Here is a video of how to use it to roll out your neck and shoulders. You can also use it on many other areas such as your feet, your glutes, and your hamstrings. It is a very versatile tool, you aren’t limited to just your neck and shoulders. These are fairly easy to get at a big box store such as Walmart or a sporting goods store like Dick’s Sporting Goods, and of course, they can be found on Amazon as well. Sometimes with these retailers, you are stuck buying lacrosse balls in bulk. If you’d prefer to purchase just one, we have them for sale at the office. Grab one before your next adventure to help you prevent the aches and pains associated with traveling!
Test these tips out on your next trip and let us know how they make you feel! It is my hope that these tips help you to feel better than ever when you return from your upcoming travel. Even if you are feeling pretty good upon your return, be sure to have your post-travel appointment scheduled because those planes, trains, and automobiles really do wreak havoc on our bodies, and chiropractic care can help!