Holiday Travel Safety Tips

Holiday Travel

Posted: December 26, 2011
By: Dr Kenneth Stopa

Holiday Traveling Safety Tips

We all look forward to the Holiday Season and gathering with family, but if your traveling long hours in a car or airplane, it can leave you stressed, tired, stiff and sore.  Let’s face it; traveling can be tough on the body!  Even if you travel in the most comfortable car or fly first class, prolonged sitting can be hazardous to your body.  Certain pressures and forces from awkward or lengthy stationary positions can result in restricted blood flow.  One of the biggest dangers to your system from prolonged sitting is the build up of pressure in the blood vessels in your lower legs.  The following tips will help you fight the pain and strains of travel before they occur:

Warm Up, Cool Down
Treat travel as an athletic event.  Warm up before settling into a car or plane, and cool down once you reach your destination.  Take a brisk walk to stretch your hamstrings and calf muscles, and do stretching exercises to limber your back, neck, shoulders and arms.

In the Car:
1. Consider a back support.  Using a support behind your back may reduce the risk of low back strain, pain or injury.  The widest part of the support should be between the bottom of your rib cage and your waist line. 

2. Exercise your legs while driving to reduce the risk of any swelling, fatigue or discomfort.  Open your toes as wide as you can, and count to ten.  Count to five while you tighten your calf muscles, then your thigh muscles, and then your gluteal muscles.  Roll your shoulders forward and back, making sure to keep your hands on the steering wheel, and your eyes on the road.

3. Minimize arm and hand tension while driving by holding the steering wheel at approximately 3 o’clock and 7 o’clock, periodically switching to 10 o’clock and 5 o’clock..

4. Do not grip the steering wheel.  Instead, tighten and loosen your grip to improve hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in the arms, wrists and hands.

5. While always being careful to keep your eyes on the road, vary your focal point while driving to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and tension headaches.

6. Take rest breaks.  Never underestimate the potential consequences of fatigue to yourself, your passengers, or other drivers.

In an Airplane:
1. Stand up straight and feel the normal “S” curve of your spine.  Then use rolled-up pillows or blankets to maintain that curve when you sit in your seat.  Tuck a pillow behind your back, just above the beltline, and lay another pillow across the gap between your neck and the headrest.  If the seat is hollowed from wear, use folder blankets to raise your buttocks a little.

2. Check all bags heavier than 5-10 percent of your body weight.  Overhead lifting of any significant amount of weight should be avoided to reduce the risk of pain in the lower back and neck.  While lifting your bags, stand straight, away from the overhead compartment so the spine is not rotated during the process.  Do not lift your bags over your head, or turn or twist your head and neck in the process. 

3. When stowing belongings under the seat, do not force the object with an awkward motion using your legs, feet or arms.  This may cause muscle strain or spasms in the upper thighs and lower back muscles.  Instead, sit in your seat first, then gently slide the bag under the seat using your hands.

4. Make sure to drink plenty of water.  Traveling, especially by plane can cause dehydration. 

Have a safe and happy holiday!


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