With the kids out of school and the weather getting warmer, many people find that summer is the best time to get away from home and engage in a little rest, relaxation, and reconnecting with the people they love.
In fact, 45 percent of all Americans take summer vacations, traveling a total of 657 million miles each year between the two holidays which typically signify summer’s beginning and end—Memorial Day and Labor Day—according to research conducted by Statistic Brain.
While this is good news because it means that people are enjoying their lives a bit during these three months, travel can be extremely hard on the back. This is especially true when moving around luggage or being stuck in a sitting position for long periods of time in a plane or car. However, there are a few tips you can offer your patients to promote greater back health during the busy summer travel season.
1. Luggage-related tips
Most airlines cap their luggage weights at 50 pounds (with some opting for a slightly lighter 40 pound max), which isn’t too bad weight-wise but can still tweak a healthy spine if lifted the wrong way. Encourage patients who are traveling by plane to honor this weight limit then, saving themselves a lot of pain as well as some oftentimes hefty overweight luggage fees.
Overweight carry-ons can wreak havoc on a back as well. Even if you have one that has four wheels, making it easy to walk along the airport corridor, you still have to lift it to place it in the overhead bin. Therefore, try to keep it light by packing only the things you absolutely need in it (such as medications, snacks, a change of clothes, and something to keep you occupied on the plane, like a book or tablet). Everything else should go in checked luggage.
Additionally, no matter how your patient intends to get to his or her vacation destination, sharing proper ways to lift heavy bags can help prevent back injuries from occurring. For instance, show them to bend at the knees versus at the waist so they lift with their leg muscles and don’t strain their back. Address the importance of not twisting the core while lifting and, instead, moving the entire body in the intended direction.
2. When stuck in a sitting position
Statistic Brain further reports that the average distance traveled while on a summer trip is 284 miles, and this is just one way. This means spending several hours in a sitting position, which can easily lead to a sore back. Long plane rides can have the same effect, leaving the traveler with stiffness that becomes difficult to ignore.
For this reason, it helps to talk to your patients about the importance of standing up and walking around every so often to help loosen up the spine. On a plane, this can easily be accomplished by getting out their seats and walking back to the restroom or standing and stretching in the aisle. If traveling by car, they should stop every so often and get out, whether at a rest area, convenience store, or open parking lot.
3. Stay hydrated
When traveling from one location to another, it’s easy to be so focused on the journey that your patients forget to stay hydrated. Sometimes, it’s even a conscious decision so they don’t have to stop and use the restroom a lot. Either way, becoming dehydrated can be harmful to the back says Spine Health, largely since the discs in the spine rely on water to stay functional.
This means taking the time to drink water continuously throughout travel. Admittedly, this can be expensive if spending any time at an airport, but one way to bypass this expense is to take their own empty water bottle and fill it once they get through security. In the car, keeping a cooler stocked full of ice and bottled water in the trunk can save some cash too.
By engaging in healthy back practices such as these during the busy summer travel season, your patients can enjoy their time away without having to deal with any unnecessary pain. And they’ll have you to thank for it when you remind them of important tips like these.