How You Can Help Yourself
We often recommend back packs as being a good way to distribute a load and reduce back pain …. but don’t go mad like this … you’ve still got to lift it!!!
Back strain often occurs near the end of your range of motion when lifting a heavy bag. For this reason, we recommend moving slowly when lifting a heavy piece of luggage and breaking the action into smaller parts whenever possible. For example, when lifting a bag into an overhead bin, it can first be lifted to the top of the seat, then into the bin in a separate motion. It helps If you brace your abdomen at the same time and avoid arching backwards if you are putting luggage over your head. Similarly, loading a suitcase in the trunk of a car can be broken into to steps, such as lifting it first to a chair or stepstool, then lifting it into the trunk.
Other important lifting tips include:
- Bend at the knees and use leg muscles rather than back muscles to lift
- Avoid twisting the low back while lifting; instead, pivot with the feet
- Carry heavy items as close to the body as possible
- Distribute weight evenly on each side of the body
- If carrying one shoulder bag, switch sides often to avoid stressing one side of the back
Support Your Back When Travelling
Seats in cars, trains, planes etc. often don’t provide the right type of support for the lower back and/or neck. A lumbar support pillow can be used to make your seat more comfortable and support your lower back. If you don’t have one or forget to bring it, a jacket, sweater or blanket rolled up can also provide support for the inward curve of the low back. This is often particularly important if traveling economy on a long flight, as many airplane seats lack low back support. In this case, a pillow or blanket placed between the seat and low back can work well. An inflatable travel pillow that fits around the neck can help avoid neck strain by providing head support while resting or sleeping in a sitting position during travel.
Support Your Feet
Proper support for the low back also requires bottom-up leverage from your feet. If your feet are not placed on a firm surface while sitting, additional stress is transferred to your low back. Therefore, if your seat is too high, try to rest your feet on a footrest (or something that can act as a footrest) to keep your knees at a right angle and avoid stressing the low back. While driving, resting both feet on the floor provides more support for your lower back than if one foot is on the accelerator all the time, so you may consider using cruise control for longer drives.
A heavy bag can be more than just an inconvenience – it can cause or aggravate back pain by straining muscles and joints. To avoid unnecessary strain, it’s best to use a light suitcase with wheels and a handle for rolling it. Even when using a suitcase with wheels, you will probably need to lift it to go up or down stairs, in and out of the car, etc. Therefore, instead of stuffing one large suitcase full, it’s often better to use a few smaller bags. For some trips, the best option is simply to avoid large luggage entirely by shipping most of what you’ll need ahead of time and carrying just one small bag on your trip.
Check Your Posture
Sitting for prolonged periods adds strain to the structures of the low back, and poor posture puts even more stress on your spine. Make sure that your back is aligned against the back of your seat in a sitting position and that your headrest is supporting the middle of your head. Keep the shoulders straight and avoid hunching forward. Make sure both feet are firmly resting on the floor or a footrest. If you are driving, adjust the seat and steering wheel to a comfortable position to avoid reaching for the wheel.
Move as Much as Possible
The spine is designed to move. Sitting in one position for extended periods of time stiffens the back muscles, which can put stress on the spine. Get up and stretch and move around frequently – every 20 to 30 minutes if possible – to move your core body muscles. Importantly, movement stimulates blood flow, and blood brings important nutrients and oxygen to the structures of the back – helping prevent soft tissues in the low back from stiffening and aching after sitting for a long time. Even 10 seconds of movement and stretching is better than sitting still. Movement also helps prevent blood clots from forming in the leg (deep vein thrombosis).
Have a great holiday! Keep following our great tips and advice!