Does travel leave your body “on the beaten track?”
As the holiday season approaches, many of us are planning travel to visit friends and relatives, or go on vacation for much-needed rest.
Yet travelling requires deviating from our normal physical routine, and can leave us exhausted. Too, we may experience body pain when we least expect or need it! There is a good reason why we encounter relief upon returning home!
So, how do you avoid travel injuries?
First, we will address why problems occur:
Frequent travel involves prolonged periods of sitting and sedentary behaviour in awkward positions.
Driving or sitting for long periods of time — in confined spaces with limited leg room — is a part of the travel-experience. The design of plane, bus and cars interiors constrict the ability to shift your body and release a buildup of muscle tension. These conditions with sustained sitting can overload your lumbar discs, leading to lower back pain, and leg stiffness.
Carrying large and heavy luggage can cause shoulder and lower back pain.
The shoulder gains most of its stability from muscles and tendons in particular the rotator cuff system. Carrying heavy objects. and performing sudden jerky movements — such as hoisting luggage in and out of a car boot — can result in a tear of the rotator cuff. The consequence may be shoulder instability and pain.
When lifting a heavy object in a bent forward posture such as luggage, the lumbar discs in your lower back can experience a sudden increase in pressure. And this may lead to a bulging or herniated disc.
Compared with typical daily movement, travel can involve substantially more walking.
Sudden increased volumes of walking in different footwear can often overload the tendons and muscles of the lower legs and ankles. This can lead to inflammation and significant pain, and problems known as Achilles tendonitis (or tendinopathy) and plantar fasciitis.
A major factor that contributes to travel-related injuries is a change in footwear. If the design of your ‘holiday shoe’ varies from other shoes you typically wear, your feet can suffer especially if there is less arch support in your “holiday shoes”.
Interruption to your normal exercise routine can adversely impact your body.
Many people invest effort to establish a consistent exercise routine during the working week. Too often, an exercise routine will disappear during a period of travel, and then require several weeks to reestablish.
Five takeaways to help you avoid travel injuries
1. Choose your travel equipment carefully
Use a cross body handbag or day bag with a wide strap while travelling. A bag that distributes the weight of the bag’s contents across your shoulder and your trunk is preferable to one that is suspended from one shoulder.
Use a rolling suitcase and pack minimally to take the load off the lower back and shoulders.
Use a small back support if you typically experience lower back problems. This may be helpful to wear during periods of prolonged sitting
2. Make good choices regarding footwear
Ensure your footwear is always well-fitting and has good arch support. If you are wearing athletic type shoes, they should be less than a year old.
Examine the shoe differential (the vertical difference between the height of the heel and the front of the shoe). This dimension should not deviate from walking shoes you typically wear.
Practice walking in your travel shoes at least a month prior to your journey.
3. Avoid repeated bending from the lower back while lifting heavy suitcases
When you are lifting a heavy suitcase or backpack, use your legs by bending at the hips and knees rather than your waist and your lower back. Avoid twisting your spine or turning when you are lifting. And ensure you brace your abdominals before you lift the luggage or other heavy items. This will take the pressure off the lumbar discs and will help avoid travel injuries
4. Avoid prolonged sitting
Take frequent opportunities to get out of your car or bus and walk when traveling. Moreover, use a lower back support to keep your back in a neutral position when you are driving or riding.
5. Plan and prepare
Prior to travel, prepare your body. Engage with an exercise or training program specifically tailored to improve the strength and flexibility for travelling. This program should focus on areas of the body such as shoulders, knees, legs, lower back and core.
Establish a travel routine. Commit to a simple program of 3-4 exercises and stretches you complete daily to help avoid travel injuries and ease aches and pain. It will also help you re-establish a routine once you are back home. SimpliMove.health offers programs to help strengthen specific muscles and increase flexibility so you can improve your travel fitness and avoid travel injuries. Recommended exercise programs that will help this include:
We also invite you to look over these travel articles on our blog, Move Better. Live Better
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- How to reduce the chance of knee pain spoiling a good holiday