Family Health Magazine - MODERN LIVING
Travel Comfort Tips
Good posture and stretching make the journey bearable
Whether you choose to travel by car, plane or train, sitting in a confined space for long periods of time can stress your muscles and joints. As a result, travellers often feel stiff, cramped, tired and sore at the end of a trip. On long journeys and with air travel in particular, lack of movement can affect blood circulation. For some, poor circulation can lead to blood clots (deep vein thrombus) – a serious and sometimes fatal condition if the clot blocks a major blood vessel.
Maintaining good posture helps prevent back pain and excessive strain on joints, ligaments and veins. Still, even if your posture is excellent, staying in the same position for a long time becomes uncomfortable. Shifting your position often can help make the trip more bearable.
Posture Tips for Your Automobile Trip
- Wear a seatbelt and adjust your headrest so it is centered directly behind your head. Sit in an upright position and make sure your back is well supported by the chair. Try placing a lumbar roll or rolled-up jacket in the hollow of your back for additional comfort.
- Lining shoulders up with the torso helps evenly distribute weight throughout the spine.
- Keeping hips and knees at a 90° angle helps maintain good spinal alignment. If possible, bring your legs to a comfortable position by using a backpack or small piece of luggage as a footrest.
- Adjust your armrest so that elbows are also at a comfortable 90° angle. You may wish to use a small pillow to bring your forearms to the right height.
- Shift your weight and move knees and hips often to relieve the stress on pressure points. If driving, adjusting the angle of the steering wheel whenever you stop the car can help change your position.
Tips for Airplane Travel
The British Medical Association suggests when making a trip by plane, travellers should make an effort to stand or walk from time to time. Seated exercises can also increase blood flow in the deep veins of the legs.
Performing one of the following exercises for each area of your body before, during and after a long trip keeps blood circulating well and reduces joint stiffness. Stretch gently until the muscle feels slightly tense, but not painful. Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for a count of ten, then repeat. Slowly stretch both sides.
While you are doing these stretches, sit erect with your ear and shoulder lining up with your hip and your feet slightly apart. Rest your arms comfortably with hands in your lap. Make certain you stretch both sides of your body.
Head and Neck Stretches
- Chin Tuck – Keeping head level, tuck your chin under and move it backwards to create a ‘double’ chin.
- Head Turn – Turn your head so that you are looking over your right shoulder, then slowly move it back to center. Repeat on left side.
- Head Tilt – Lower your ear as close to your shoulder as possible without turning your head or lifting your shoulder.
- Neck Bend – Tuck your chin under and slowly move it towards your chest, then return to your normal position.
- Neck Extension – Raise your chin to the ceiling and look up, then return to your normal position.
- Shoulder Stretch – Link your fingers together, then, facing palms outward, stretch hands forward until your arms are fully extended.
- Shoulder/Back Stretch – Roll your shoulders back and squeeze shoulder blades together. Concentrate on widening your rib cage with each breath.
- Shoulder/Forward Stretch – Hugging yourself, hold the backs of your shoulders with your hand. Pull shoulders gently forward so that you feel tension release between your shoulder blades.
- Shoulder Rolls – Begin by shrugging shoulders to loosen them. Lift one shoulder and circle it, then repeat with the other side. Try to touch your shoulder blades together while taking deep breaths to relax. Repeat several times.
- Body Twist – Turn your body and head so that you are looking over your right shoulder. Reach your left hand over your shoulder and hold onto the top right of your chair back. Repeat on opposite side.
- Back Arch – Tilt your pelvis and arch your back, while breathing deeply.
- Back Slump – Slump forward and try to touch your shoulders to your knees. Relax your stomach and tilt your pelvis backward.
- Body Stretch – If you are able to find a comfortable place to stand for a few minutes, place your feet shoulder-width apart. Stretch your body and head as tall as you can. Shift your hips forward and extend your arms directly above your head. Finally, link your fingers together with your palms facing upward.
Travel Aids for Canadians with Disabilities:
The Access to Travel website
lists some handy tips on accessible transportation and travel across Canada for those with disabilities.
Foot and Ankle Stretches
- Calf Stretch – While sitting, place your left heel on the floor. Lift your toes and the front of your foot as far up as you can while keeping your heel in place.
- Foot Pump – Pump each foot as if braking a car several times to restore circulation in your feet and ankles.
- Heel Lift – Rest your elbows on your knees, leaning forward. With weight on your elbows, lift your heels as high off the floor as you are able. Keep the balls of your feet on the floor, then gently lower heels.
- Ankle Circles – Lift foot off floor and draw a large clockwise circle in the air with your toes. Next, draw a counter-clockwise circle. Lower your foot to the floor. Repeat 20 times on each side.
Be particularly vigilant about stretching if you are working or using a computer during the trip. It’s easy to become absorbed and forget to take breaks. The result is often pain and stiffness in the neck and hands once you finally do stop working. Make a point of standing, taking a short walk, or even drinking more liquid so that you are forced to visit the bathroom regularly. Use any excuse that will help you shift your posture.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physican promptly. Copyright 2012, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6 [ML_FHb05]