|Avoid aches and pains when traveling by air.|
Frequent travelers can prevent backaches, stiff necks, and overall soreness by steering clear of some classic mistakes. Don’t pack too much, skip the stylish shoes for traipsing through airports, and don’t plan more activity than your body is used to.
Since some of the best opportunities to hurt your back and neck happen when traveling by air, here are tips to keep your spine healthy:
Lighten your load.
Before you even get into a cramped airplane seat, you face a bigger hazard: luggage. Pack as lightly as you can manage. Take advantage of curbside check-in if available, so you don't have to haul the bags yourself. A few bucks as a tip to keep your back healthy? Priceless.
|Plan what you pack to take less.|
Balance your load.
When you carry bags, try to balance the load -- a roller in one hand, your hand luggage in the other. On long walks through airports, trade sides regularly. If you have a suitcase with wheels, load everything on it and push, don't pull it. Pushing keeps the weight in front of you centrally, giving you better control.
Fly in comfort.
Onboard the plane, place a neck pillow or rolled-up blanket behind your neck to support it so the headrest isn't pushing your head forward. Do the same behind your lower back to support the lumbar spine. If you can, use your carry-on like a footstool to raise your knees above the level of your hips. For reading, pull out the tray and place a pillow or your rolled-up jacket on it, then put your reading material on top so you don't have to bend your neck down to read.
Never aim the airplane fan to blow directly on your neck -- it can cool down your neck muscles and cause spasms and neck pain later. Circulate the air around you; don't point it on you. Same with the fan in the hotel.
Have some pillow talk.
If you have a favorite pillow and can afford the luggage space, bring it along because hotel pillows are notoriously awful. If the hotel only has big pillows and you're a back sleeper, beat the thing silly or try to move some of the fiber around to make a dip for your head. Your goal with pillows is to keep your neck in a neutral position that's similar to when you are standing or looking straight ahead.
|This is a good pillow, but if you don't have one that supports the|
neck like this, try to create your own from what is available.
Repurpose the towels.
Improvise your own perfect pillow using a towel from the bathroom and folding it to look like a wedge-shaped cervical pillow -- the thicker part of the wedge goes under your neck, the thinner part under your head. Or simply roll up a towel, put it behind your neck, and sleep on a pillow thick enough to keep your ears in line with your shoulders on the big pillow. The idea is to support your neck so it's in alignment with your spine, not bent forward.
This guest post is by chiropractor, Dr. Jay Lipoff, CFT, (www.backatyourbest.com), author of Back at Your Best: Balancing the Demands of Life with the Needs of Your Body (www.BAYBBook.com).
Photos from free photo sites.