Our bodies are not designed to be sitting for long periods. We are designed to be hunting and gathering food, so when we are cramped in a small airplane seat or stuck in the back seat of a car, pain can often become an unwanted travel companion.
Here are some tips to keep you pain free as you travel.
Bring a Neck Pillow
A neck pillow to support your neck as you doze off can help to prevent cramping of the cervical muscles when in an awkward sleeping position. Sitting increases pressure to the joints and muscles of the neck. Neither car and airplane seats offer support to the neck which in itself can lead to pain. Using a light weight pillow that offers both comfort and support can help you get some rest without the neck pain.
Pack a Sweater
A rolled-up sweater placed in the small of your back while sitting can help support the curvature in your lower back. The lower spine is not designed to be straight, we naturally have a curve that needs to be supported. However, airplane seats especially, are not designed to be ergonomic. Using a sweater to help maintain this curve while sitting for long periods can help prevent fatigue of the muscles that support the spine and reduce pain.
Consider Compression Stockings
If you notice swelling or stiffness in the ankles or feet after you’ve been sitting in car or on a plane for hours, you may benefit from compression stockings. They work by applying pressure to your lower legs, helping to maintain blood flow, and reduce discomfort and swelling. Compression stockings have come a long way over the last few years. No longer do they look like your grandmother’s old panty hose, there are now compression sports socks and dress socks that easily pass for regular socks.
Try In-seat Exercises
When we are in a static position for long periods, blood flow and circulation could be negatively affected. To prevent blood from pooling, light movement of the larger muscles groups can help to get blood pumping and improve circulation.
Gluteal squeezes (clenching your butt cheeks) are a great way to engage muscles which will often get tight after inactivity and cause pain. To perform, hold the contraction for 5 seconds and release for another 5 seconds; repeat 10 times.
Ankle alphabet exercises are easy to do and are great for anyone suffering from swelling in the feet, as it helps to prevent fluids from pooling in the lower extremities. Simply trace the alphabet from A to Z with your foot and ankle and repeat on the other side.
Dr. Nekessa Remy is an award-winning chiropractor, a registered and medical acupuncturist and one of Canada’s fastest rising and sought-after health and wellness expert in the industry today. She is the current owner of Mississauga’s The Chiropractic Office, a comprehensive injury management clinic focused on sports-related injuries and woman’s health issues and also runs a practice in downtown Toronto, at Integra Health Centre where she works amongst other leaders in the health care field.