Summer is a time where many people look forward to relaxing and taking vacations. For millions of Americans who live with chronic back pain, the thought of traveling and being in an unfamiliar place can cause anxiety and stress. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent pain while on vacation to have a more relaxing and enjoyable trip. Dr. Sharon Bassi, a physiatrist (medical specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation) at NEBH suggests the following precautions.
Traveling to your Destination
- Pack lightly, and use rolling luggage to minimize strain. Always use proper lifting mechanics when transferring your suitcase, and ask for help if you have something heavy to lift.
- If driving, take breaks often. Stop at rest stops and alternate drivers. This is also a good time to stretch and do some of the exercises that normally keep your back in shape.
- If on a plane or train, stand or take a short walk in the aisle when you have an opportunity.
- When sitting, use a small pillow behind the back for a time, then take it out, then sit on it for a time. This is a method of shifting your body to avoid sitting in the same position for the whole trip. Some may find benefit from a small supportive neck pillow.
- Keeping a portable ice pack on hand can be a useful strategy if pain should occur. In some instances, application of heat can help to relax muscles that are tight.
Once you are on Vacation
- Alternate days of activity and rest to avoid overtaxing yourself.
- Exercise and keep active. Do not eliminate health and fitness from your schedule while on vacation. Aerobic activity, stretching, strengthening, and yoga are great methods to manage pain. Check to see if any of these activities are available at your vacation destination prior to your trip.
- Maintain nutrition and healthy eating habits. Keep hydrated, with water as the beverage of choice. Eat healthy and try to consistently have a good night’s sleep. In addition, try to limit any alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant and can thus intensify pain.
If your pain continues, you should consult an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of back pain.