This article is part 1 of a 3 part series. For Part 2, click here. For Part 3, click here.
Low back pain (LBP) is a common complaint when it comes to traveling, whether it’s in a car, bus, train, or airplane. Traveling is hard on the joints, muscles and nerves for many reasons and requires us to do things our bodies are not used to, such as prolonged sitting in a cramped area. Remember the last time you had the middle seat on a plane? Also, unless you have a very unique exercise routine, injuries commonly occur from hoisting carry-ons into overhead bins or yanking them off the baggage claim belt. This month’s article will offer tips about traveling and things you can do to minimize risk of irritating or creating LBP. Bon voyage!
Lifting (in preferential order of lowering the risk of LBP injury):
- Ask for help if you know your carry-on is too heavy for you to place into the overhead bin safely. There are many kind co-travelers who will jump at the chance to facilitate (especially if you ask them nicely). If that fails, most flight attendants will be happy to help if they know you are struggling with LBP (be honest with yourself—now is NOT the time to be in denial about your back issue!)
- When it is possible, try to ship your heavy items ahead of time. It’s not only good for your back, but it’s often cheaper than the cost many airlines charge per bag! If you do this, all you need is a small carry-on that can easily fit under the seat in front of you.
- Why NOT simply check a bag, especially on that contains heavy items? You still have to be careful removing it from the luggage carousel, but again, ASK FOR HELP!
- Try a backpack. It sure beats slinging a heavy briefcase over only one shoulder, which should be reserved for a light hand bag only.
- If no one comes to help, and you end up having to complete this often unpleasant task yourself, think before you lift. Break the lift into small movements or actions. For example, when placing your carry-on into an overhead bin, keep the luggage close to your body since the farther away from your body you hold the bag, the heavier it becomes to your lower back (up to 10x the load!). Try this method: first lift the bag to the arm of the seat that lies below the overhead bin; next lift it to the top of the seat back top; and then (the hard part), squat down, arch your low back, grip the bag, and in a smooth continuous movement, raise the bag up and onto the edge of the overhead bin. At that point, wiggle it in the rest of the way. Another important point about lifting is to try to avoid twisting, ESPECIALLY if combined with bending. A bend / twist combination is often the cause of a low back injury. Try to pivot your feet to move your body to avoid your back from twisting.
There are MANY other traveling tips that we have not yet discussed.
Don’t miss the next article, click here for part 2.
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