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Tips for Traveling When in Pain

Tips For Traveling When in Pain

It’s that time of year when you may be gearing up to spend the holidays with family and friends. But what do you do if you’re in pain, either from a chronic condition or recently injured, and you need to travel?

Two things come to mind when I think about traveling for the holidays. One is getting to and from your destination, which may involve a long car drive, airplane travel or other public transportation. The other thing is what to consider when you arrive, since you may be staying with family, friends, or even in a hotel or rental home.

At the holidays, we pack up our car to head back to the Midwest to visit family. It’s a 15 hour drive to Iowa from our home in Colorado, and we usually make the trek in one day. I have found through experience that long plane rides or car travel can really take a toll on your body, especially your back and neck. Sleeping in a different bed or home can cause some physical complaints but also can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

My best advice when it comes to traveling are wrapped up in the tips below.

1. Try to avoid sitting for long stretches of time.

If you’re traveling by car, plan to stop every hour so you can get out to walk and stretch. If you’re traveling by plane consider walking to the restroom and stretching a bit (as much as you can wiggle around in those tiny bathrooms). Once you locate your gate at the airport, walk around to get the blood flowing to your legs, or consider sitting on the floor to stretch your legs out. I have to admit, I no longer care that much about what strangers think of me, so if I need to lie down to relax my back on the floor or do some gentle yoga, I do. If you have enough room in the car, recline your seat back to relax your back or lie down in the back seat to stretch your legs.

2. Pack your self treatment tools.

Use these tools when you get there, but also on the way to and from your destination. Some great ones to try are a small inflatable ball, the CranioCradle, Sacro Wedgy or a travel foam roller. Check out this video I made for additional tips on how to use them when traveling. You’ll find additional instructions in the user manual of these tools as well.

3. Be mindful of your body and how you’re sitting and standing.

Staying connected to your body with your breath and awareness is key to being able to shift your weight or position your body to feel better. Use a small towel, blanket, or even a sweatshirt for a lumbar roll at your back for support or under your buttocks to fill the space of an uneven seat. Shoulder rolls and pelvic tilts can help relieve tension in your spine and keep you connected to how you’re feeling in your body. Gentle neck and shoulder stretches can be done while seated or standing in line. Spinal twists, forward fold and arm reaches can be beneficial to offset the effects of prolonged sitting.

4. Stick to your routine as much as possible.

Stick to your normal routine for sleeping, waking, exercising, and recharging time. You will feel more energized and grounded when you follow a routine you’re used to. That includes your morning coffee time, exercise, and bedtime. Use the hotel gym, get a day pass at a local gym, or get outside for a walk. Pack your own pillow if you’re worried about your neck. Try essential oils like Lavender or Vetiver to create a calming environment at bedtime. Use a sound machine, fan, or app on your phone to drown out unfamiliar nighttime noises. Give yourself permission to listen to your body and follow its cues. I find at family gatherings that I put pressure on myself to stay up as late as others because I don’t want to miss out on conversation or I just want to soak up time with loved ones. In reality, I feel better when I listen to my inner clock and excuse myself to bed when my body tells me it’s time.

5. Give yourself time and space to take care of yourself, even during your visit.

It’s ok to go to your room to use your self-treatment tools or step outside for a brisk walk to get some fresh air and relieve tension. A few mindful breaths to clear your head can do wonders for your body. Epsom salt baths, topical pain relief cream and essential oils to support your muscles and joints can also help. My favorites are Cool Azul Pain Relief Cream and Deep Relief, PanAway, and  Copaiba Essential Oils. Your loved ones will appreciate your time together more if you take care of yourself, too.

6. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

It’s easy to be so caught up in getting to your destination that you don’t eat and drink properly. Air travel can leave you dehydrated with the recycled air and pressurized cabin. It’s tempting to go for the alcohol or soft drinks instead of water, so be mindful. Carry an empty water bottle that you can fill once you go through security, or keep one handy in the car when you’re driving. Drinking enough water will also give you a reason to stop to use the restroom and stretch your legs. Your muscles, joints, and organs need water to function properly, so drink up!

7. Pack as light as possible.

Make it easier to avoid lifting and carrying heavy bags. (I’m certainly no expert on this, just ask my husband or anyone who has traveled with me). I notoriously over-pack, but here’s my advice for those of you who are suffering from back or shoulder pain. If you’ll be staying with family or will have access to laundry facilities, take enough clothes for half your stay and do laundry while you’re there. Carrying or lifting several small bags are better on your body than packing one big suitcase.

8. Check out your bags.

Consider the size and style of the bags you pack. Use wheeled luggage to save the wear and tear on your body. Use your wheeled luggage to strap smaller bags to and wheel them to the check-in area. If you don’t have wheeled luggage, distribute your bags evenly when carrying them. For car travel, take several small bags instead of one big one. Smaller bags will be easier to get into and out of the vehicle. A backpack is better than shoulder bags when it comes to carry-ons, because you can distribute the weight evenly if you wear it as indicated.Choose Your Bags Wisely

I hope you find these tips practical and useful. May you be blessed with safe travels and quality time with your loved ones this holiday season in a body that feels better and moves easier. If you’re local to Woodland Park, CO and need a little help once you return from the holidays, request a Discovery Session to see how I can help you feel better in the new year.

Justine Calderwood

The Healing Spot Physical Therapy

"We Help Individuals Overcome Pelvic Floor Issues, And Heal Bowel & Bladder Conditions So They Can Be Active and Pain Free Again, Regardless of How Long It's Been"