A Vacation from Back Pain

Tips for summer travelers—how to stay pain-free!

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For many of us, summer is the season to burn some vacation time and hit the road. The longer days and warmer weather may make it easier to get away, but summer travel often includes cramped flights and seemingly-endless road trips. And that can take a real toll on your back—even if you don't have a history of pain.

To fully enjoy your summer destination, you need to know how to protect your back during the journey.

Below are some simple ways you can take care of your back on the road—and in the air.

red convertible, open road

Car Trips
Car travel is back on the rise—the economy has forced many summer vacationers to accessible, domestic locales.

But sitting in a car for hours on end can put a lot of pressure on your back. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate the strain long car rides can place on your low back:

  • If your car seat doesn't offer enough support for your low back, there are a variety of seat cushions, pillows, and other car aids on the market that are designed to make your car trip much more comfortable. If you don't want to spend the money, simply roll up a towel and create a makeshift cushion between your back and the seat.
  • Take time to stop at rest stops and towns along the way to stretch and move around. Staying in the same position for hours at a time will only exacerbate your back pain. Even spending just a few minutes doing some back stretches may make a big difference in preventing pain.
  • Make sure you're not sitting on anything (such as a wallet, money clip, or cell phone). If you are, it can aggravate back pain.
  • Bring a cooler packed with ice packs to relieve pain on the road. If you need to ice your back, do so for no longer than 15 minutes at a time. Also, make sure there is a barrier, such as a towel, between the ice and your skin.

Air Travel
Roomy first-class airline seats are an unattainable luxury for most of us. If you want to arrive at your gate pain free, you should follow the guidelines below:

  • Upgrade to an aisle seat—it will allow you easy access to get up and move around. On a similar note, take advantage if your airline offers special deals on seats with extra legroom.
  • Focusing on your posture is essential if you want your flight to be a bearable experience. Keep both feet on the floor and sit upright.
  • Bring an inflatable pillow that can be placed behind your lower back for extra support.
  • Use rolling luggage and pack light. At the luggage carousel, don't be afraid to ask for help in picking up your bags. If you are confident handling your own bags, take your time and don't bend and twist simultaneously as you lift.

When it comes to pain-free traveling, the journey is just as important as the destination. Summer vacation should be something to look forward to, but it can be anything but enjoyable if you have back pain. Taking these precautions will help prevent pain, letting you truly enjoy your time away

Updated on: 08/04/16
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Alan Hedge, PhD, CPE
This article was reviewed by Alan Hedge, PhD, CPE.
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Muscle Spasms are a Leading Cause of Back Pain But NOT the Primary Cause

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