Traveling is wonderful. You get to explore new places, take in beautiful sights, get to know your travel companions more, and hopefully return home feeling refreshed and liberated. The only downside of traveling is the simple fact that you typically have to abandon your routine or adapt it to your new surroundings. Days spent on long road trips or back-to-back flights are not ideal for your physical or mental health. Lack of proper nutrition or hydration depletes your body’s defense systems, making you more susceptible to illness, which is puts a damper on all the fun you want to have once you reach your destination.
Airplanes and vehicles offer limited spaces for your body to sit comfortably, leading to a higher risk of muscle spasms, cramping, or injury due to lifting luggage or even just turning your head at the stoplight. Back or neck pain definitely has the potential to ruin your trip. The key to preventing dehydration, fatigue, body aches, or even injury while traveling is to plan ahead. Proper nutrition, posture correction, and light activity will help you reach your destination in top condition.
A reusable water bottle is the ultimate staple for any form of travel. You can fill it up anywhere and remain hydrated. Plain water might get boring, though, so it’s refreshing to keep a couple herbal tea bags at the ready for a quick pick-me-up.
Snack on veggies and fruit
If your busy itinerary is causing stress, your body might naturally start to crave greasy, sugary foods as a way to boost your energy. Instead of giving in to the plethora of unhealthy options while traveling, keep fresh veggies and fruit at the ready. Bananas, carrot sticks, apples and single-serve nut butters are great options for travel. You’ll boost your antioxidant intake, which will help fight off any airborne illnesses.
Pack a sandwich
It’s tempting to rely on airport or convenient store options for food during your travel day, but chances are you won’t find anything with much nutritional value. Make your own sandwich at home using a bagel, pita, or fresh baguette (less likely to get soft) and ingredients that do well without a cooler like fresh mozzarella, red peppers, and arugula.
Sitting on a plane or behind the wheel for hours on end isn’t good for anyone’s body. You’ll notice unusual aches and pains due to prolonged sitting with limited range of motion. To prevent this discomfort, perform light bodyweight exercises at each rest stop or between flights. Squats, lunges, and gentle stretches will do the trick. To really feel your best, pack a resistance band and perform various exercises for just ten minutes at your hotel room upon arrival. The endorphins will boost your mood, your body will reawaken, and you’ll be ready to explore your destination!
Tip: Move around even when you’re on an airplane. Your spine is designed to move, so talk regular walks down the aisle to minimize risk for injury.
Get comfortable on the plane
Be aware of how you’re sitting on the airplane. Ask the flight attendant for a pillow and use it to support your lower back. The pillow can also be placed under the back of your knees to ensure your legs are at a right angle when you sit, which will relieve pressure on your low back. Neck pillows are great investments in that they allow your head to sit comfortably, relieving any neck tension that may have accumulated throughout your travels. Lastly, make sure you bend your knees while lifting your luggage, and try and do it in stages. Pick your suitcase up, rest it on the seat, then maneuver it overhead. Be aware of your breath, knees, and spine while doing so.
Correct your driving posture
Long road trips can wreak havoc on your spine if you’re not attentive to your posture. Make sure your seat is adjusted high enough so you don’t feel as though you are reaching toward the steering wheel. Try and have your spine rest comfortably against the seat without having your shoulders slump forward. A simple exercise for this is to activate your core muscles, pull your shoulders back, and let your arms naturally rest on the steering wheel. Check in with yourself every half hour or so to make sure you aren’t letting your posture slide.
If you have any questions about preparing for an upcoming trip or recovering from one, schedule an appointment with me at Lifestyle Chiropractic by calling (920) 499-3333 or using the request form on the website. Pain while traveling isn’t necessary or convenient—make the most out of your vacation by adhering to these preventative actions!
Best of health,
Dr. Chad M. Hoffman