Summertime is here! School is finally out and many families are getting ready to take their summer vacations. Vacations are meant to be relaxing and rejuvenating escapes from the stresses of every day life. However, sometime vacations can turn out to be even more stressful and exhausting than the rat race we run in our cumbersome stress filled lives. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “I need a vacation from my vacation.” While if you’ve ever caught yourself saying these words I’m here to help you avoid coming home from your summer vacation feeling exhausted and cheated. Here’s a few tips you can use to make the most out of your next vacation.
- Proper Planning – Make yourself a checklist of what you need to pack to avoid forgetting important travel necessities. Make sure you have the proper directions if you’re visiting somewhere new. You may also may want to make a list of activities to allow for a smooth running vacation schedule. Don’t forget to make time for a little R&R (rest & relaxation). Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?
- Use Proper Packing & Lifting Techniques – Don’t overload your bags heavier than you can carry without straining yourself. If you carry a backpack it should not be heavier than 20% of your body weight. Both straps on a backpack should be used when carrying it to avoid an uneven load that’s pressure can cause your spinal column to misalign. Make sure heavier luggage is equipped with wheels and a extractable handle to avoid awkward lifting. WHen loading your vehicle lift with legs and keep your back flat while holding your bags closer to your body. Try not to overextend, lean, or reach excessively because doing this puts your back and joints in unfavorable weakened positions. When storing bags overhead you should lift carefully and make sure the object is not heavier than 20 pounds or what you can handle comfortably. Ask for help with heavier luggage.
- Take Pitstops – The human body wasn’t made to be seated in a cramped car seat for hours upon hours. Making a few quick stops along the way is a great idea to stretch out and get the blood flowing again. Poor sitting posture in a car or airplane is hard on your pelvis, spine, nerves, and bad for circulation as well. If you’re flying get up every 30 minutes to stretch. Take a rest from the busy highways to give your nerves a break from stressful traffic. If the stress from other travelers speeding by is making you drive “white knuckled” then its definitely time to take a break from the roads. Driving breaks can vary from every 2 hours or less depending whether or not you already suffer from pre-existing back or spinal conditions. Besides, what’s the rush? You’re on vacation right?
- Stretch! – If you happen to be sitting in first class then you can skip this section. Back in coach with the rest of us the seats and isles are cramped! At 6’4″ I’m already feeling it as I duck and take my first step while boarding. Get up on a regular basis to stretch throughout the flight every 30 minutes. If you’re in my height bracket try to ask for an isle seat or to sit in the emergency exit row for more leg room. If you’re driving to your destination than stretch at every stop.
- Use Supports and Cushions – Most seats do not have enough support to maintain the proper alignment and curves of the spine while traveling resulting in fatigue and poor posture. Purchase a lumbar support cushion to maintain the curve in your lumbar spine and take pressure off of the intervertebral discs. U-shaped cervical pillows are a great way to support your neck form injury while sleeping on a flight. I suggest buying a higher quality cushion or support form Core Products that will last you for years. If you use a special cervical pillow for sleeping at home then take it along with you to prevent a stiff neck or worse. Hotels typically don’t have the same special pillows that people with neck issues require,
- Pre-Cautions for Pre-Existing Back and Neck Problems – If you’re already experiencing low back or neck discomfort, a muscle strain, or other injury you can pack a small cooler with reusable ice packs. Ice can be used for 20 minutes every 2 hours to reduce inflammation. If your pain is more serious you should consult with a health care professional and try to reschedule your trip for a different time. I hope some of there tips come in handy for your next trip.
Safe Travels and Happy Trails,
Dr. Joseph J. Thomas