Chiropractor for 12 years, Rebecca Nicholas, has seen most things in clinic and summer time is not without its own challenges in keeping healthy and injury free. Here she gives us her top 7 tips for preventing health injuries whilst on your summer holidays….
So, you have made your holidays plans, decided who with and when to go, but most importantly, where to go! Fantastic, that’s the exciting bit! Now comes the slow build up of different stresses and strains that you may (or may not) realise is about to happen.
Lots of our clients coming in for their spinal adjustments are going on their summer hols, and, whilst we wish them a fantastic trip full of making happy memories and laughter, there is a high incidence of aches and pains pre and post holiday- just read this newspaper article that states a third of Brits sustain injuries at airports! And that’s just at the airport.
So realising this, I want to help give you some of my top 7 tips to reduce and potentially eliminate the chance of you suffering. And yes, I’ve seen all of this happen in practice, so, as the phrase goes, forewarned is forearmed.
#1 the stress build up
So you’ve got the excitement of booking your holiday and the countdown begins, you’re full of joy and positivity. In the week leading up to going, the stress starts mounting (if not even before this depending on what sort of personality type you are!)….have we got everyone’s passports? have we got all the toiletries? can we still fit into our summer clothes or do we need to go out shopping? have we had our haircut/manicure/wax/delete as necessary 😉 So now we don’t have time to go to the gym, or eat healthy, or go to the chiropractor! Our stress hormones start to increase massively when we head off to the airport or packing up the car. What will the traffic be like? We cant be late! Don’t forget the passports! Have I remembered everything in my suitcase? Whilst these hormones don’t feel very nice, (and often cause us to argue with our nearest and dearest) they also cause us to have more muscle tension and back pain! It also often leaves us more susceptible to injury and discomfort, by increasing our inflammatory levels. Thus setting us up for pain. Read here one of our blogs on why this happens. So, calm down and plan ahead. Slow down. Everything will be ok. Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you are going. And in all fairness, you only need your passport and money. Remember that you are completely grateful for even being able to go on holidays, when many folks don’t even have that luxury.
#2 travelling to your destination by car
Whilst all you’re probably thinking of is getting to the airport/destination as quickly as possible with no major traffic disruptions, do not forget to get comfortable immediately. This usually includes sitting upright to set the chair/lumbar support and rear view mirror. If you are sitting in the car for more than an hour or two get out and move regularly, you were NOT designed to sit still for too long. Put the cruise control on if you have it so that you can rest both feet flat on the floor- this will allow knees, pelvis, and spine to remain as neutral as possible. Think about taking a hot water bottle with you to support the arch of your low back whilst giving you some targeted heat to help stop the back muscles from seizing up.
#3 lifting suitcases
Here I am, having that mental image of sitting on the suitcase trying to close it and stuffing clothes into the ever shrinking small places to make sure you can take even more clothes, shoes, and handbags (or is that just me?!) The luggage limit is most usually 20kgs, unless you have upgraded or have a diving licence to get more. Be mindful that you have to lift this heavy suitcase! In and out of the car, down the stairs, off the carousel etc. This action, usually would not be too much of a problem, however add in the unusual high stress levels, and you have a potential cocktail to trigger backpain/headaches/shoulder pain etc. Why not put your luggage in 2 bags rather than one? Push rather than pull? Make sure the wheels on your suitcase move freely, there are some really nice and mobile cases out there that the wheels can move 360 degrees and make the suitcase move across the floor smoothly and easily without resistance. Tense your tummy muscles whenever you are going to lift, bend or twist. Check out our YouTube video on how to do this. The other item of transport you should be careful of is using the trolleys at airports. Be mindful that not all of them were created equally, and that some are more user friendly than others- test one or two before deciding which is easier to push and manoeuvre.
#4 Aeroplane health challenges
These include (but by no means exhaustive) poor posture whilst seated, dehydration, being too sedentary, and lifting and putting luggage overhead. My top tip would be to plan ahead how comfortable you want your plane seat, and I’m not just talking about upgrading! Although nice if you can afford to! I’ve come to realise that the seats are not made for anyone, tall people, short people, or average sized people. Think about using a rolled up jumper to support the small of your back.
Ask the cabin crew for a pillow. Bring a blow up neck pillow (I bought one recently for £5), great for keeping your neck more upright if you have a tendency to fall asleep. Get up and move regularly. See here our blog on stretches you can do whilst seated. Not only is this really important for your muscles and joints of your spine, but also necessary for your veins and blood flow (to prevent swelling and DVT).
Be careful when lifting and putting luggage into the over head lockers. Be mindful, tense your tummy muscles as per our YouTube video above, and do specific movements without too much twisting and bending. Or get a nice strong man, or woman, to help you.
Stay hydrated especially on a long haul flight is more important than you think. Flights under 3-4 hours probably don’t require you to drink more water (just say “yes” when the flight attendant comes round asking if you want some water). Most planes typically have 10-20% humidity, whilst the newer planes have up to 25% humidity which means that the air will take less water out of you. Yippee. Good news for less dry scratchy throat feelings! NB alcohol and salty snacks will dehydrate you very quickly. So, think a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume. This also goes for when you are away too- being in any country that is hot, or high humidity, means you are going to lose a lot of water sweating. Air-conned rooms will also dry the air, and you, out. Drink Drink Drink (water that is! lol).
#6 sleeping on different mattresses and pillows
Sleeping on different mattresses and pillows are often the bane of holiday makers. We get so used to our own particular bed that we just don’t feel comfortable in any other. If you often suffer with back and neck pain in different beds, I would definitely consider getting a thorough spinal check from a chiropractor as this demonstrates your body is not as healthy, mobile, or strong as it should be.
Try and find out in advance what the mattresses are like at your hotel. If you find the mattress is too hard put some spare blankets or a duvet under you. If you end up with a soft mattress consider putting it on the floor. Don’t get worried about telling the reception or room cleaners.
Can you replicate the pillow height you’re used to at home? This may mean folding up a towel to put under the pillow to raise it up. Some clients with chronic neck pain even choose to bring their own pillows on holiday!
#7 lying on sun loungers
Be careful not to spend too long in one position absorbed in that thriller; the facet joints in the spine can become compressed by lying on your front, and, on your back, the discs can be put under strain if not supported well (a small rolled up towel under your tummy or behind your back may help). Please note, that we are not designed to lie or sit around too much of the time, so move before your back locks up and goes into spasm! You have been warned! My personal recommendation is to move every time you turn a page. NB I also do this whilst I read in bed lying down.
What do you think of my top 7 summer holiday tips to beat those aches and pains? Can you think of any I haven’t thought about? Have you got any top tips for fellow travellers? Do share, don’t be shy!
In conclusion, get yourself sorted before you go and plan ahead!
And lastly, and very importantly, don’t forget your pre and post holiday check up at the chiropractors! It may be something that is last on your mind, but having your check up and adjustments will help to reduce your chance of getting injuries, back pain, and other aches thus allowing you to enjoy your wonderful holidays.