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Travel Can Be a Pain In Your Back

Traveling can be rough on the body. Whether you are traveling alone on businessor on your way to a sunny resort with your family, long hours in a caror an airplane can leave you stressed, tired, stiff and sore.

"Prolonged sitting can wreak havoc on your body," says Dr. Scott Bautch, immediate past president of the American Chiropractic Association's (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. "Even if you travel in the most comfortable carrier opt to fly first class, certain pressures and forces from awkward positions can result in restricted blood flow. One of the biggest insults to your system from prolonged sitting is the buildup of pressure in the blood vessels in your lower legs. Contracting and relaxing the muscles helps the blood flow properly."

Dr. Bautch and the ACA suggest the following tips and advice to fight the pains and strains of travel before they occur.

Warm Up, Cool Down

Treat travel as an athletic event. Warm up before settling into a car or plane, and cool down once you reach your destination. Take a brisk walk to stretch your hamstring and calf muscles.

In the Car

  • Adjustthe seat so you are as close to the steering wheel as comfortablypossible. Your knees should be slightly higher than your hips. Placefour fingers behind the back of your thigh closest to your knee. If youcannot easily slide your fingers in and out of that space, you need tore-adjust your seat.
  • Considera back support. Using a support behind your back may reduce the risk oflow-back strain, pain or injury. The widest part of the support shouldbe between the bottom of your rib cage and your waistline.
  • Exerciseyour legs while driving to reduce the risk of any swelling, fatigue ordiscomfort. Open your toes as wide as you can, and count to 10. Countto five while you tighten your calf muscles, then your thigh muscles,then your gluteal muscles. Roll your shoulders forward and back, makingsure to keep your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
  • Tominimize arm and hand tension while driving, hold the steering wheel atapproximately 3 o'clock and 7 o'clock, periodically switching to 10o'clock and 5 o'clock.
  • Donot grip the steering wheel. Instead, tighten and loosen your grip toimprove hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in the arms,wrists and hands.
  • Whilealways being careful to keep your eyes on the road, vary your focalpoint while driving to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and tensionheadaches.
  • Take rest breaks. Never underestimate the potential consequences of fatigue to yourself, your passengers and other drivers.

In an Airplane

  • Standup straight and feel the normal "S" curve of your spine. Then userolled-up pillows or blankets to maintain that curve when you sit inyour seat. Tuck a pillow behind your back and just above the beltlineand lay another pillow across the gap between your neck and theheadrest. If the seat is hollowed from wear, use folded blankets toraise your buttocks a little.
  • Checkall bags heavier than 5-10 percent of your body weight. Overheadlifting of any significant amount of weight should be avoided to reducethe risk of pain in the lower back or neck. While lifting your bags,stand right in front of the overhead compartment so the spine is notrotated. Do not lift your bags over your head, or turn or twist yourhead and neck in the process.
  • Whenstowing belongings under the seat, do not force the object with anawkward motion using your legs, feet or arms. This may cause musclestrain or spasms in the upper thighs and lower back muscles. Instead,sit in your seat first, and using your hands and feet, gently guideyour bags under the seat directly in front of you.
  • Whileseated, vary your position occasionally to improve circulation andavoid leg cramps. Massage legs and calves. Bring your legs in, and moveyour knees up and down. Prop your legs up on a book or a bag under yourseat.
  • Do not sit directly under the air controls. The draft can increase tension in your neck and shoulder muscles.

Safe Travel For Children

  • Always use a car seat in a car when traveling with children below the age of 4 and weighing less than 40 pounds.
  • Askthe airline for their policy on child car seat safety. Car seats forinfants and toddlers provide added resistance to turbulent skies, andare safer than the lap of a parent in the event of an unfortunateaccident.
  • Makesure the car seat is appropriate for the age and size of the child. Anewborn infant requires a different seat than a 3-year-old toddler.
  • Carseats for infants should always face the rear. In this position, theforces and impact of a crash will be spread more evenly along the backand shoulders, providing more protection for the neck.
  • Carseats should always be placed in the back seat of the car-ideally inthe center. This is especially important in cars equipped with airbags. If an air bag becomes deployed, the force could seriously injureor kill a child or infant placed in the front seat.
  • Makesure the car seat is properly secured to the seat of the vehicle and isplaced at a 45-degree angle to support the head of the infant or child.

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