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PT Travel Hacks for Pain Free Vacation

PT Travel Hacks for Pain-free Vacation

by Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTPLeave a Comment

Traveling should be fun and not a precursor to injury. Use these tips to help make your next trip as pain-free as possible.

1. How to Sit

  • Don’t sit with your wallet or cell phone in your back pocket, as this can cause you to sit unevenly.
  • You can use a small pillow or rolled towel to help with the posture of your lower back and for more support.
  • Try to sit with both feet flat, supported on the floor. Use cruise control if possible when driving to avoid the unevenness of one leg bent and one leg straight for long periods.
  • Adjust the headrest to keep your head and neck supported over your body; you don’t want it too far back or too far forward. The headrest should be in the middle of your head.

2. Tips for sleeping while upright

  • Recline slightly if able, and lean to one side using a pillow, blanket, or article of clothing to support the head and neck.
  • Keep your seatbelt on.
  • Make sure to select a position where the head is supported to avoid pain being woken up by a bobbing head.

3. Packing & lifting suitcases

Take care when packing your suitcase to avoid over-packing, which would cause the suitcase to be heavier. Pack smaller suitcases to keep the load inside each one less; this tip works if traveling by car but can be more challenging when traveling by plane. Use bags with wheels and a long handle to avoid straining the back and shoulder muscles.

How to lift your suitcase:

  • Bring suitcase close to your feet.
  • Bend your knees and use your legs to help you lift rather than your back.
  • Keep the suitcase close to your body when lifting rather than lifting with your arms reached forward.
  • Turn your feet in the direction you are moving to avoid twisting the back.
  • Use a 2nd person for heavier bags or to help with overhead lifting.
  • If lifting to overhead compartments, break up the lift by lifting from floor to seat and then seat to overhead.

4. Wear the proper shoes for the activities planned

You may be doing more activity than normal, depending on your vacation. Increased walking, hiking, or walking on different surfaces can be challenging for your body. Make sure you pack good supportive shoes for your planned activities.

5. Top 5 Stretches for Traveling

You should aim to move as much as possible when traveling. The body is designed to move and can get stiff quickly in prolonged positions. Even 10 seconds of movement can help increase blood flow to the tissues and joints and is better than sitting still. Take breaks to get out of the car and walk around. If traveling by plane, depending on the length of your flight, taking a quick moment to stand or walk up the aisle can help with feelings of stiffness.

Try these 5 stretches during and after your next vacation to help with any aches and pains:

1. Neck Stretches (upper trap and levator)

These stretches are good for neck and upper shoulder pain. Tilt your head to the side like you are bringing your ear to your shoulder until you feel a stretch on the top of the shoulder, hold for 20-30 seconds. Then tilt your head down as if looking at your armpit to feel a stretch further back near the top of the shoulder blade and hold for 20-30 seconds. Perform both stretches on the opposite side several times.

PT Travel Hacks PT Travel Hacks

2. Doorway stretch

This stretch is good if you have been sitting for a while. Place both hands on either side of a door frame. Step forward with one leg and lean in until a stretch is felt across the front of the chest and armpit area. Changing your hand height on the door frame can alter the intensity of the stretch and where the stretch is felt. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times.

PT Travel Hacks

3. Chin Tuck

This stretch is good if you get headaches or neck pain. This can be performed lying down or sitting with the head supported, such as a headrest in your car. Keep your eyes looking straight ahead, and pull your chin back as if making a “double chin” position. You should feel a stretch in the base of your skull or the back of your neck. Perform in a tolerable range for you. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 10 times.

PT Travel Hacks PT Travel Hacks

4. Lower Trunk Rotation

This is a great stretch for your low back and helps improve mobility in the lower portion of your spine. Begin lying on your back with both legs bent; you can lie on the bed or the floor. Rotate your legs to one side until a stretch is felt in the low back or hip. Hold for 2-3 seconds, then rotate to the opposite side. Perform 10 repetitions to each side.

PT Travel Hacks

5. Seated/Standing Hamstring stretch

Sit with one leg extended and your back straight. Reach toward your ankle. Keep your knee, neck, and back straight. You should feel the stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other leg. You can also perform this stretch standing with the leg propped up on a small step or the floorboard of the car and hang onto the side of the car for balance and support.

PT Travel Hacks

Hopefully, these tips will help on your next vacation. If you are experiencing any aches and pains, find your closest Athletico for a free assessment. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our telehealth platform.

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*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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About the Author:
Tara Hackney, a physical therapist in Marion, IA, enjoys working with all patient types, especially gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers. She is the prominent blogger for Athletico's Gymnastic/Cheer Program. With an orthopedic specialization and training in dry needling and Graston technique, Tara hopes to answer your questions about injuries and injury prevention in an easy-to-understand manner. She hopes to ease fears surrounding pain and injuries, address concerns about recovery, and provide tips to prevent injury. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog, reading, and watching her nephews play sports.

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