Holiday Travel for People with Musculoskeletal Trouble
For many people, the upcoming fall and winter holidays will be the first time they’ve traveled in a while. And if you’re new to traveling after incurring a musculoskeletal injury or you’re unsure how travel may have changed, you may be concerned about aggravating your discomfort. Your chiropractor can provide you with information that is more specific to your needs, but in general, there are a few things that are good for people traveling with joint injuries to keep in mind. Some of them require a bit of advanced planning, so we wanted to pass them along while Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away and patients can determine which form of travel makes the most sense for them and whether they will be able to stay with relatives or in a disability-accessible hotel room.
Getting Ready for Your Trip
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act requires companies to provide accommodations for people with pain and mobility problems, some patients may be unaware of what resources are available to them or not know to call ahead. If you anticipate a long time in a vehicle, it may be an especially good idea to wear a brace and bring a cold pack or single-use hand warmers. If possible, use suitcases with pull-out handles and wheels, but if that makes them too large to qualify as carry-on items, a backpack might be better than a one-handed bag or shoulder-bag. If your chiropractor approves the use of a backpack, you’ll still need to wear it correctly. That means pulling the straps snug so that it rests in the middle of your upper back, as opposed to hanging down in your lumbar region, packing heavier objects first so they won’t shift position as much, and distributing weight within the backpack as evenly as possible. Even in people without musculoskeletal problems, a backpack should not weigh more than ten percent of their body weight.
While You are In Transit
For most people, regular stretches are a vital part of rebuilding muscle strength and flexibility. Keeping still for several hours is generally not optimal, and if you are traveling by car, try to give yourself an opportunity to get out and move around at least every ninety minutes. If you travel by train, bus, or airplane, you may want to do stretches before boarding, and ask for opportunities to do more stretches periodically in the aisle. (However, this is not the time to be experimenting with a new work-out and attempting your own modifications to forms taught to you by a professional.) At the least, you may have chances to walk around or stretch in your seat and may ask for assistance putting luggage in overhead bins. You may also bring neck-pillows, cylindrical wedges for your lower back, or ring-shaped cushions. When seated, try to keep your feet flat on the floor and to keep your knees and hips at a ninety degree angle, just as you would when seated at a desk. And remember to hold devices with screens up to your eyes instead of bending your neck down.
At Your Destination
If you have lower back, hip, or leg pain, it may be better for you to get a room that is near an elevator and has an accessible bathing area. You may also want to bring assistive devices and supportive shoes with strong grip even if you don’t normally need them in your own home or on familiar terrain. Keep in mind that you may be more sensitive to cold and that you will likely need a full day of rest after traveling. Throughout your journey you’ll also need to be mindful to stay hydrated, and it’s wise to look up what medical centers are available at your destination just in case of a flare-up.
By Roger Barnick 11-5-2021