Top Tips to Prevent Back & Neck Pain When You Travel

The plane lands or you drive up to your hotel's valet, only to find yourself veritably frozen in a seated position with stiff legs and an aching back. Anyone who travels has undoubtedly experienced this type of pain and stiffness, caused by prolonged sitting. The following tips will keep you loose, limber and pain-free whether you're on the road, in the air or somewhere in between. 

On a Long Road Trip

  • Practice Proper Posture - Knees and hips should be bent at 90 degree angles, with thighs parallel to the floor. Knees should be bent when resting on pedals. Roll a t-shirt or towel for extra lumbar support. 
  • Make Pit Stops - Try to pull over often (ideally every 20 to 30 minutes) to stretch and move around. This will improve blood flow, preventing circulation from getting cut off at the knees. 
  • Use Cruise Control - Cruise control allows you to move and stretch your legs, instead of having to hold the pedal to the metal the entire journey. 
  • Adjust Position - Every 20 minutes, make slight adjustments to your sitting position to prevent stiffness. 

In the Airport

  • Lift Safely - Bend knees in a squat position (not your back) to lift heavy luggage. 
  • Keep Moving - Use your layover to get your blood flowing. Walk around and stretch. If you must wait in line, do not stand still or lock joints.  Shift your weight from one leg to the other or sway your hips from side to side.  (NOTE:  If you want to “hula” in place, just remember to bend your knees slightly while you sway your hips.  Optional:  Hand and arm movements to tell a story.) 
  • Airport-Friendly Exercises - "Bear Hug" your backpack. Squeeze your bag in front of your chest to strengthen your core and stretch shoulders and upper back. No backpack? Do the Farmer's Walk. Grasp two bags (or giant, weighted cinnamon rolls) in each hand, stand tall with shoulders back and find your gate. 

On an Airplane

  • Sit and Get Fit - You can do isometric exercises in your seat (tray table locked).
    • Hand Press: Firmly press palms together in front of chest.   Hold for ten seconds, release and repeat.
    • Core: Sit straight with hands on edge of seat. Draw your stomach up and in. Hold each move ten seconds, repeat five times and remember to breathe.
  • Room to Stretch - Even if you didn't claim both arm rests, you can stretch.
    • Neck: Turn head right, then left as far as you can and slowly drop chin to chest. Hold each position five seconds.
    • Upper Back: Bring your right arm (slightly bent) across your chest. With left hand, grasp just above your right elbow and pull across body. Hold ten seconds and repeat.  Keep your back straight as you raise both arms up as high in the air as you can.  Continue stretching as you move your arms slightly forward & back to the initial position.    
    • Legs: Flex your foot towards your shin and then point toes forward. Repeat ten times on each leg.  While you’re sitting (and if you have the leg room), occasionally lift your legs up, then bring them down; one at a time or both at the same time.

Hydrate for a Healthy Body and a Happy Trip

Whether you travel by plane, train, bus, boat or automobile, remember to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. When traveling, people have different routines and schedules and, as a result, often forget to drink enough water. Dehydration worsens muscle tension, leading to pain, stiffness and headaches. 

Enough water and the right stretches and exercises to keep your body limber will enable you to be pain-free during long days of travel.  The result?  A successful business trip in the books or an enjoyable vacation where you relax to the max!