Guide to Healthy and Comfortable Travel
For many, traveling is something to look forward to—the journey to get to your destination is part of the adventure. But for others, the thought of the trip is so daunting, they'd rather avoid it altogether.
Whether traveling by car, train or airplane, sitting for hours can be uncomfortable and harmful to your back and neck. But don't let the fear of discomfort dissuade you from traveling. There are things you can do before you leave and while you're on-the-go, that can help prevent the pain.
Review our top ten tips to make your journey as pleasant as possible.
1. Avoid Caffeine
Before taking flight or embarking on a long journey, try to avoid too much caffeine. That warm cup of joe might be tempting, but caffeine is a diuretic and can dehydrate your body, causing unwelcome side effects such as headaches. If you're flying, your immune system and skin are already battling a dehydrated atmosphere from the cabin. And if you're prone to airsickness, you might suffer from nausea.
Caffeine not only causes dehydration, but it can also upset your stomach, cause nervousness, anxiety and the jitters. Instead of reaching for that caffeinated tea or coffee, try a glass of lemon water. Vitamin C from lemon water helps protect your immune system and your skin from sun damage. Additionally, peppermint tea and ginseng tablets can have energy-enhancing effects.
2. Eat a Light Meal
If you're like most people, eating while traveling can leave you feeling sick and bloated. From highway rest stops to airport restaurants, the easily accessible options can be gut-busting. To avoid the grease factories, try fueling up on one large healthy meal pre-travel.
Also, avoid overeating while traveling, especially if you're flying. Try to refrain from alcohol, greasy food and anything carbonated before you take off. These foods can make you feel particularly bloated and uncomfortable. Instead, pack some light snacks such as unsalted nuts, carrots, grilled chicken or a boiled egg.
3. Treat Yourself to a Massage
Sitting for long periods, sleeping in an unusual bed and not being in the comfort of your own home can bring on a lot of stress on the body and mind. A massage not only benefits your muscles, but it can also have a positive impact on your mental health and digestive system.
Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, treating yourself to a massage is a great way to loosen tense muscles.
Consider bringing a portable massage device such as a Theracane or a Footlog. These handheld massagers are small, and most can fit right in your suitcase. These tools can help alleviate the stress and tension in your muscles that can accumulate while traveling, relieving pain and stiffness.
4. Do Some Pre-Trip Stretches
Similar to getting a massage, doing some stretches can loosen you up before a long trip. There are many different types of stretches you can do before traveling that will help keep your muscles in tip-top shape.
Here are a few suggested stretches and movements to do before you board your flight:
- Quad stretches
- Reclined twists
- Hip flexor stretches
- Forward bends
- Calf stretches
These movements can help decrease the aches and pains from traveling in your legs, back and hips.
Another important stretch you can do is to stand tall with your arms spread out before clasping them behind your head. Stick your chest out and try to push your elbows backward. This exercise will open up your chest and stretch many muscles that may get cramped while traveling.
5. Dress in Layers
Have you ever boarded a hot airplane only to be freezing mid-flight? While traveling, your body can go through many temperature changes. From the airport rush to the mid-flight cold air and everything in between, it's easy to be too hot or too cold while on-the-go.
Dressing in layers solves this issue and ensures you're comfortable at all times. Consider wearing a light t-shirt, a cardigan or hooded sweater (this type of sweatshirt can help keep your head warm), stretch or elastic pants and tried and true comfortable shoes. Keep a light jacket in your carry-on luggage for those chilly moments.
6. Wear Comfortable Shoes
You'll likely cover many miles on your feet, so it's essential your footwear is comfy and supportive. Avoid wearing heels or a new pair of shoes. Flats and sneakers are great options, but more importantly, you should be able to walk for a long time comfortably.
Keep in mind, your feet are likely to swell while traveling, especially if you're flying and walking long distances. Shoes that are loose, supportive and give your feet a bit of breathing room are best. Bring extra socks and bandaids just in case.
7. Take Movement Breaks
Whether you're driving or flying, it's important to take the time to move around and stretch from time to time. If you're driving, schedule time in your travel itinerary to pull over and stretch. If you're flying, make sure you get up to walk around and move your muscles every so often.
If you can't get up to move around, you can do a few exercises from the comfort of your seat.
First, try twirling your feet clockwise and counter-clockwise at least five times. Next, put your heels on the ground and point your toes as far as they can go. Do this with your toes on the ground and your heels in the air, as well. Roll your shoulders and neck and lift knees to your chest. If you have enough room, try to bring your chest to your knees to stretch your lower back.
8. Get Some Sleep
The key to avoiding jet lag is ensuring you're getting ample sleep and helping your body adjust to the new time zone. If you're flying, bring earplugs or noise-canceling headphones and an eye mask. If you need an extra little nudge, you can take melatonin—a natural supplement offered over-the-counter at drug stores.
John Hopkins Medicine says your body produces melatonin about two hours before bedtime, preparing your body for rest. The supplement can help your body prepare for sleep when it's not your typical time to sleep. Additionally, listening to soft music, a meditation app on your phone or reading can help you to fall asleep easily.
9. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is certainly important while you're at home, but it's even more important while traveling. Dehydration from traveling can cause bad headaches, muscle inflammation, dry skin and leave your body at greater risk of catching a cold, virus or flu.
Drinking water helps prevent back pain and keeps comfortable during travel.
Your spine has 24 vertebrae that protect your spinal cord. In between each vertebra are jelly-like discs that are composed of water and act as a cushion to make movements smoother and more comfortable. When you're dehydrated, these discs don’t cushion your movements, leading to back and neck pain.
Aim to drink at least one cup of water per hour on a flight and consume hydrating foods such as soup, fruits and vegetables. You can also hydrate with electrolyte beverages, such as Hydralyte or coconut water, pre- and post-travel. Try to avoid alcoholic drinks.
10. Pack Neck and Back Supports
It's no secret that sitting for long periods can cause back and neck pain, so traveling on a plane or in a vehicle can pose quite a challenge for many, especially on a long trip. To prevent discomfort or to keep your pain at bay, bring a neck support or back support with you.
Using a neck pillow, back brace or lumbar roll can provide additional spinal support, keeping your spine aligned and removing pressure from discs. After sitting for a long time, your postural muscles get tired.
By using travel-friendly supports, you can avoid causing additional stress to your muscles and alleviate pain points.
Travel Solutions From Relax The Back
Make your travel journeys more comfortable by choosing wellness solutions from Relax The Back. We offer a wide range of travel products to increase your comfort and support by keeping your spine in a neutral and aligned posture. Easily portable, these convenient products will provide you with the proper support wherever your journey takes you:
- McCarty's Premium Sacro-Ease: Promote a healthy back and remain pain-free with our wide variety of seat cushions. Seat cushions provide relief for those suffering from pelvic pain, coccyx pain and sciatica. The McCarty's Premium Sacro-Ease memory foam is easily portable, meaning you can bring this seating support with you while traveling. The foam will be molded and custom-bent to your body shape to help ease lower back pain and reduce impact shock. You'll enjoy more relaxed muscles while on-the-go and improve your seating posture.
- Self-Inflating Backrest: For an easy-to-carry and immediate relief solution, consider the self-inflating backrest. If you suffer from a herniated disc or sciatica, you can benefit from this portable backrest no matter where you go. Inflate the backrest before taking flight for extra lumbar support and quickly deflate and roll up once you've arrived.
- TEMPUR-Pedic All-Purpose Pillow: For a multi-purpose solution that will provide support for your back, neck and legs, try the TEMPUR-Pedic All-Purpose pillow. This peanut-shaped pillow is the perfect size for traveling and even offers a removable and washable cover.
Visit your local Relax The Back store to speak with a trained specialist or browse our products online. Through one-on-one support, our team will help you find the right solution so you can travel comfortably without pain.