The magic of the holiday season is in the air and with it has come long road trips, lots of air travel, and plenty of stress. With a packed schedule and a never-ending list of to-do’s, it’s important to keep yourself in tip-top shape. Whether taking a road trip to visit the in-laws or flying from one coast to the other for that much needed vacation, here are some tips for keeping your back in optimal shape:
- Pack as light as possible. This will make lifting your bags easier and less dangerous. Consider packing two small bags instead of one large one.
- Be careful while lifting bags. The obvious still rings true: never lift with your back. In addition, never twist while lifting. Twisting already places your back in a compromised position and adding weight while twisting without proper form and ample strength is a recipe for a thrown out back.
- Stay moving (as best as you can). Get up to use the restroom, even if you don’t really need to. Stretch your arms up and over head. Contract and release ab, glute, and leg muscles while sitting to prevent stiffness. Do anything you can to keep the blood flowing (without annoying your fellow passengers too much).
- Choose an aisle seat whenever possible. This will allow you to stretch out your legs and arms fully without aggravating your neighbors.
- Try not to lean on the armrest or tray table. Leaning too far torques your back, over-lengthening some muscles and contracting and shortening others. Sitting in these positions for too long can lead to stiffness, strains, aches, and pains and throw your back out of alignment.
- Avoid single strap bags. Using a single strap bag places uneven pressure on the opposing sides of your back. This can throw your back out of alignment, leading to discomfort and contributing to degeneration of the spine.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to avoid unnecessary dehydration. Not drinking and retaining enough water can make you feel fatigue, headaches, nausea, and more. It is recommended that you drink about 8 ounces of water for every hour of your flight.
- Make frequent stops. Try to stop every hour or two, just to stretch for even a few minutes. When you do, try some slight backward bends to counteract the forward posture you often sit in while driving.
- Practice proper posture while driving or riding shotgun. Sit upright with your back and shoulder against the back of the seat. Make sure your headrest is positioned properly, allowing your head to rest right above your shoulders as opposed to jutting forward.
- Stretch your neck at stoplights. Gently rotate, turning side to side to help prevent and alleviate any stiffness.
- Consider purchasing a back support or pillow made for the seat of your car. It will provide better support, placing less stress on your back.
ALL FORMS OF TRANSPORTATION
- Uncross your legs and evenly distribute your weight by sitting straight and tall. Crossing your legs, especially for long periods of time, puts immense, uneven strain on your back and can lead to lots of discomfort and uneven stiffness and tightness.
- Make sure there is nothing in your pockets. Remove your wallet, keys, passport, cellphone, or anything else that you may keep in your back pocket. Sitting on an uneven surface, especially for elongated periods of time, can throw your back out of alignment.
- Manage your stress. The holiday season is full of laughter, smiles, and big family reunions. It is also often filled with loads of stressors and anxiety inducers. Make sure you are paying attention to the areas of your body that are holding the bulk of your stress. Are your shoulders up by your ears? Is your jaw clenched? Are you curving your back unnaturally? Practicing deep breathing, listening to soothing music, and making sure you have even just a moment to ground yourself will help you to avoid tightness, stiffness, and strains. Do all you can to address the stress before it begins to build up as tension in your body.
Develop a recovery plan post vacation. After the holiday season, don’t hesitate! Jump right back into your routine (or start a new one as a New Year’s Resolution). Schedule a Pilates, yoga, or Gyrotonic session to stretch out your cramped muscles and strengthen the weak ones. Also, consider some electric stimulation and a massage to work out some of that built up tension. Lastly, schedule an adjustment to properly align your spine. Combine all of these and you’ll be back to your pre-holiday-season self in no time!