Keep your chiropractic patients’ back healthy this holiday season with these travel safety tips.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that long-distance travel—defined as travel in which the final destination is more than 50 miles away—increases nearly 55 percent over the Thanksgiving holiday and about 25 percent when closer to Christmas and New Year’s. Therefore, it’s likely that your patients will be spending some time in transit over the upcoming holiday season.
As their healthcare provider, this puts you in the perfect position to increase the odds they enjoy their time with family and friends without suffering from a travel-related back injury.
During long car rides
According to the DOT, a majority of holiday-related travel (91 percent) is by car. So you consider advising your patients that back health during long car rides can be safeguarded in the following ways:
- If you’re the driver, Ergonomics Simplified suggests you position your seat so you can comfortably reach the foot pedals, reclining the back of the seat to a 100-to-110 degree angle, which “decreases the pressure on the discs in your low back.” Additionally, adjust the headrest so it sits at the middle of the head, lowering the steering wheel to lessen your need to reach.
- Spine-health adds that it’s necessary to support your lower back during longer car trips. One way to do this is to buy a lumbar cushion made of gel or memory foam. Another option is simply to use a small pillow or anything similar that can be placed “between your lower back and the seat to support the contour of the inward curve in your lower back.”
- Stop often to stretch your back and move around. This helps alleviate stiffness and promotes healthy blood circulation to your back area.
When traveling by plane
While the DOT notes that only about 5 percent of holiday travel is by air, it’s still important to offer healthy guidelines to minimize back injury during this busy time as one Spine Universe study found that 55 percent of travelers experience both back and neck pain after taking a “typical flight.” Here are some tips for your patients who plan to travel by air:
- Take proper support with you. Because the Spine Universe survey found that the biggest aggravator for back pain was poor lumbar support in airplane seats and that headrests are the main culprit for neck pain, it’s important to take proper support for these areas with you. That way you’ll have them when and if you need them.
- Select an aisle seat. Just as frequent movement helps enhance back health when on long car rides, the same is true if you’re traveling by plane. Therefore, if you’re shy and don’t like bothering those seated next to you by getting up during your flight, an aisle seat makes it easier to stand and stretch.
When traveling with luggage
Not only is the method of travel important for back health, so too is the type of luggage you use and how you move it about. For example, backpacks are great for travel as they can distribute the weight of carry-on items evenly. To choose one that guards your back health, the American Occupational Therapy Association suggests looking for padded shoulder straps, a hip or chest belt, and a height that “extends from approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level.”
Finally, if your patients are traveling with more than just a carry-on or small suitcase, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says they should use luggage that is lighter in weight and has wheels. Also, to lift luggage without damaging the spine, the AAOS recommends that users “stand alongside of it and bend at the knees” so they lift with their legs as opposed to their back muscles.
By helping your patients protect their backs during lengthy holiday travel, you’re giving them the best gift possible: a happy and healthy holiday season.