Tag Archive for: Holiday travel

4 Spine-saving tips for less pain during Holiday Travel

For many, Holidays mean traveling to visit family and friends. Or perhaps you’re a New England resident and just want to get away from the cold for a few days. Either way, hours in the car, hours on a plane, and sleeping on mattresses you’re not used to can wreak havoc on your spine.

The good news is there are some simple and easy things you can do to help prevent this. Here are 5 of my top tips to save your spine during holiday travel:

Tip #1: Interrupt your sitting

The biggest strain on your body while traveling is undoubtedly the prolonged periods of sitting. Our bodies are made to move continuously throughout the day. Too much sitting puts extra load and compression on your spine, and can trigger an underlying problem you weren’t even aware of. On road trips or long plane rides, getting out of your seat is critical for keeping your neck and back healthy. In a car, plan extra time in your trip to pull over at rest stops and walk around. On a plane, choose an aisle seat so it’s easy to get up and stretch. I recommend interrupting your sitting every 30 min for good neck and back health whenever you’re able. Keeping up with that frequency while traveling can be difficult, but something is better than nothing.

Tip #2: Use a lumbar pillow

While sitting, a proper lumbar pillow is not only essential for good lower back alignment, but also for proper neck alignment. We have natural curves in our spine that are designed to absorb shock and disperse load. Ever heard of the dreaded “forward head”? That’s the posture your neck assumes when it needs to compensate for lower back slouching. When your spinal curves are not maintained, such as when sitting or slouching for prolonged periods, you get abnormal and unwanted forces throughout your spine, resulting in pain and stiffness that can occur in both your neck and lower back. When purchasing or making your own lumbar pillow – you want to make sure the roll is thick enough to maintain the natural curve (lordosis) in your lower back without much effort while you sit. The built-in lumbar supports that you can adjust in your car are typically not adequate enough – so don’t rely on those. Have a small pillow or roll handy to compensate.

Tip #3: Maintain a neutral spine while you sleep

When traveling and facing various mattresses that might not align with your typical sleeping setup, there are ways to compensate to prevent neck and back pain. Start by packing a portable travel pillow that offers adequate support for your neck’s natural curve. If the mattress is too firm, consider using extra blankets or folded clothes strategically placed under specific body parts, like your hips or shoulders, to create a more cushioned surface. If the mattress is too soft, try placing a firm object, like a folded towel or a small pillow, beneath your lower back for added support. Sleeping on mattresses you’re not accustomed to while traveling can be challenging – and you’re never quite sure what you’ll be getting into. The name of the game is to position yourself in a way so that you’re sleeping in a neutral position – where your head, neck, and spine all align.. It might take a bit of trial and error, but adapting your sleeping setup while traveling can significantly reduce discomfort and ensure less pain and strain in your neck and back.

Tip #4: Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated during holiday travel plays a crucial role in preventing neck and back pain due to its impact on overall bodily function. Adequate hydration supports the elasticity of spinal discs, which act as cushions between vertebrae, preventing them from becoming stiff and compressed. Dehydration can exacerbate muscle tension and reduce flexibility, increasing the likelihood of discomfort and stiffness in the neck and back. By drinking enough water, you help maintain proper circulation, delivering essential nutrients to muscles and tissues, promoting their relaxation, and reducing the risk of cramping or spasms that often contribute to neck and back pain during long journeys. Plus – hydration supports your body’s ability to recover and repair – so when you’ve got those travel-related strains on your spine that are ultimately inevitable no matter how careful you are – you’ll simply feel better faster.

Traveling any time of year, especially during the Holidays, comes with its own set of challenges and problems. There is no need to add unwanted neck and back pain to that list. Implementing even just one of these spine-saving tips next time you travel can make a real difference in alleviating neck and back pain – and allow you to focus on your destination instead.

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Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her guide to back pain CLICK HERE or to get in touch, email her at [email protected]

Shoulder Pain

Traveling for the Holidays? Tips to Ease Back and Neck Pain

Are you traveling for the Holidays? Unlike last year, there’s a lot more people getting out of town to see friends and family they didn’t get to see last year. Personally, I love to travel. But what I don’t love is the back and neck pain that often comes with it. The good news is you can prevent – or significantly minimize it – with tips to ease and back and neck pain during holiday travel. Whether you’re traveling by train, plane, or automobile… 

Here are 5 tips to ease back and neck pain during Holiday travel:


1. Walk at Rest stops and Airports

Walking is not only great exercise but it’s well known for helping ease back and neck stiffness. Our bodies like to be upright and generally don’t like to be still and sitting for very long. If you’re flying somewhere this Holiday season, walk around the terminal while waiting for your flight instead of sitting. Don’t take the people mover – get those extra steps in and walk instead. If you’re driving somewhere long distance, make a point to stop along the way and be sure to get out and walk a little. Bonus – walking is great for hip and knee stiffness too.

2. Stay Hydrated

When it comes to back and neck pain – people don’t really think of hydration as something that makes a difference. The discs between our vertebrae need fluid to do their job – which is to provide cushion and shock absorption. They can get dry and brittle when not properly hydrated which can exacerbate back and neck pain. When you add travel to the mix, which involves a lot more sitting than you might do on a normal day, you put even more stress on your discs. So remembering to drink enough water when you travel is very important. Opting for foods like watermelon, lettuce, spinach and soups can help you stay hydrated as well as avoiding beverages that contain caffeine and alcohol. 

3. Interrupt your Sitting

If you make a point to walk when you can, and drink plenty of water, interrupting your sitting is going to naturally happen and not be that difficult. As I mentioned already, our bodies were not meant to be sitting for prolonged periods and it’s one of the top reasons so many people suffer from unnecessary back and neck pain. When you sit, there is more pressure on your vertebral discs. But more than that, they start to weaken in certain areas from too much sitting – making you more susceptible for a disc bulge or herniation. Prolonged sitting also puts extra stretch on your muscles. Over time this contributes to them losing their elasticity – making them weaker and more painful – and easier to strain. My general rule is to always interrupt your sitting at least once every 30 min. This interruption acts as a reset button for your spine and helps to minimize the cumulative forces responsible for all of the problems I just mentioned.

4. Stretch in your Seat

If you absolutely can’t stand up and interrupt your sitting – the next best thing is to move and stretch in your seat. While it’s not as ideal as standing up – it’s certainly better than just sitting there. My two favorite stretches to do while sitting are: 1) the chin tuck and 2) thoracic extension. 

To perform the chin tuck…

To stretch your thoracic spine…

5. Use a lumbar Roll

Our spine is made up of distinct curves for a very good reason. They are designed to balance forces and sustain shock – and it’s best if you can maintain them. When you sit, the curve in your lower back (lumbar spine) decreases, or sometimes disappears all together. While it’s perfectly acceptable to sit like this for small increments of time (remember the 30 min rule), your spine will not like this after several hours. Plus, your neck responds by changing it’s curve to a “forward head” position as well. One of the best things you can do is use a cylindrical lumbar roll to help maintain the natural curve in your lumbar spine. Place it right at your lower back any time you’re sitting and you’ll find that your back and neck have a lot less strain. 

Give one more more of these tips to ease back and neck pain during holiday travel a try – you’ll see that easing your back or neck pain by even 30% could have a big impact on your travels.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH. To get a free copy of her Guide to Easing Back Pain and Stiffness – click here.