Summer is almost over, but chances are you’ll be heading back soon: fall is upon us and family vacation is just around the corner. Although travel is exciting and rewarding, it is often not easy on the body, especially as you age. I strained my back muscles more than once as I hauled my luggage up the stairs (it’s called “luggage” because you paw this?). They don’t really have a gym workout program to get you ready to pull 40 pound suitcases while sprinting to catch your onward flight. So to help make your next trip less of a hassle, we’ve put together four tips that will keep you comfortable when traveling by plane or car out of town.
Pay attention to your travel plans.
First things first: Know your body’s limits and do your best to respect them. For example, if you remember sitting in a car on a long road trip hurting your back, see if you can catch a quick flight to your destination instead.
If you have no choice but to take a trip that is likely to irritate your body, be prepared to fight any pain in advance. “If you have arthritis that makes walking painful, see a physical therapist or physical medicine doctor in the months before your trip to improve your range of motion and endurance,” said Dr. DJ Kennedy, physician at physical medicine and rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, recommended for The New York Times. He also suggested bringing doctor-recommended painkillers with you, just in case you need pharmaceutical assistance.
Limit the weight of your luggage.
To avoid dragging heavy luggage, it is obviously easier to travel light. But if you do need for packing a big bag, one that rolls is ideal – that way you won’t strain your muscles carrying it in your hand or over your shoulder. Bags with four wheels roll more easily than bags with two; Personally, I have a four-wheeled vehicle and I usually push it in front of me rather than dragging it behind, at least when I’m on smooth surfaces (like the floor of an airplane). Pushing feels better on my joints.
If you have to carry a bag on your body, Dr. Deborah Venesy, a physician at the Center for Spine Health at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, recommends a backpack. Backpacks are convenient because the straps can be adjusted to fit your body shape and you can use both straps to evenly distribute the weight you are carrying.
Finally, if you need help getting your luggage into the overhead compartment of the plane, don’t hesitate to ask! The flight attendants are there for that reason (or another friendly passenger can offer assistance).
Take breaks to stretch or move.
If you must sit for long periods on the plane or in the car, try taking frequent breaks to move your body and help prevent stiffness and soreness. On a road trip, that might mean stopping and getting out to stretch your legs every hour or so; you can grab a bite to eat, drink a cup of coffee, or just park at a rest area and take a quick walk around your car.
On a plane, getting around is a bit more tricky – but you can always go back and forth to the bathroom (booking an aisle seat will make that less awkward!). There are also some simple stretches you can do while seated to ease the pain. Yoga therapist Judi Bar recommends a seated cat-cow pose to relax your spine, a seated spinal twist in which you gently twist your upper body in one direction (especially easy to do in the confines of a chair) , slow neck and shoulder rolls, or a seated forward bend to stretch your lower and upper back (you’ll need a little more room for this one, so try it on the side). airport or train station). Read his explanation of these yoga journeys on ClevelandClinic.Org.
Finally, if your legs and feet tend to swell during the sedentary hours of air travel, try wearing compression socks on board to compress and stimulate circulation. After spending a long time in a confined space, the veins in your legs will have trouble pumping blood to your heart, which can cause pressure and swelling. When your leg muscles don’t contract, circulation doesn’t happen efficiently, which also puts you at higher risk for pulmonary embolism and blood clots.
Sitting up may seem simple, but there are definitely positions you can adopt that will limit soreness later on. “Make sure you’re sitting as far back in the chair as possible, so there’s no space between your hips and the back of the seat,” says Amanda Brick, physical therapist at Professional Physical Therapy. Hustle. You can also roll up a sweatshirt or blanket and place it behind your lower back for lower back support and better posture.
Many people entertain themselves on the plane or in the car with a phone, tablet or book; but looking down for hours on end can cause nasty neck strain. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to bring the device you’re using to eye level. The SkyClip, for example, allows you to attach your phone or iPad to the back of the seat in front of you, without disturbing other passengers. For more support options, check out this list on Knaviation.net. And if you plan to take a nap on a train or flight, be sure to invest in a neck pillow; these are usually U-shaped and designed to provide support to the head and neck muscles, preventing the head from tilting too far to either side once you have dozed off.
We hope you can use these tips to travel safely and comfortably this fall! Bonus tip: If you’re bringing a dog or cat with you on your trip, check out this article on flying safely with your four-legged friend.