One of the most exciting times of the year is going on vacation and traveling to different, fun destinations. However, getting there is often not so fun and filled with being in a cramped car or plane. Long trips on vacation can end up leaving you with neck pain and muscle tightness.
While traveling, you are often sitting down for several hours. This can result in slouching or falling asleep in awkward positions that can cause your spine to lose its natural curve and your head to fall towards our chest. All this can lead to back, shoulder, and neck pain.
Here are a few recommendations for managing and avoiding your travel-related aches and pains so you can enjoy a pain-free vacation.
Preventing Travel-Related Neck Pain
Bring a Pillow – If you tend to fall asleep on long-distance trips, having a supportive pillow can keep your neck supported while you sleep. Not everyone’s neck is the same, so you should pick out and test your pillow before the trip. For some people, a U-neck pillow is sufficient for comfort, but for others, a regular pillow or even a padded neck brace can be just as comfortable while keeping your neck in alignment during your mid-transit nap.
Oftentimes you don’t have much room for storage while traveling. If you’re worried about storage space, consider buying an inflatable pillow. You can easily deflate these pillows and store them in a purse or carry-on bag.
Take Breaks – Whether driving or flying, try to take a few breaks to avoid muscle tightness. Get up, walk around, and stretch if you can. If you’re on a road trip, use the gas station and food breaks to your advantage. Walk inside and order instead of sitting at the drive-thru. Stretch and do some exercises while refueling your car. By taking frequent breaks you’re giving your muscles some much-needed exercise that can prevent tightness and cramps that lead to back and neck pain while traveling.
Stretching is a great way to relax the muscles and relieve you of any stiffness. One of the most common causes of neck pain is from poor posture and stiffness. Whether you’re sleeping in a plane or sitting on a bus, there are a few stretches and exercises you can do to help “reset” your posture, stretch those muscles, and alleviate any neck pain, such as:
DISCLAIMER: Always consult with your doctor before any exercise program. if you experience any numbness, tingling, or reproduction of your symptoms, please contact your doctor.
1. Shoulder/Neck Stretch
- Sit with your back straight.
- Tilt and turn your head to one side.
- Nod your head forward until you feel a stretch along the side and back of your neck.
- Apply extra pressure (gently) with your hand to increase the stretch if needed.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
2. Seated Neck Retraction
- In the seated position sitting up tall, bring your chin slightly back.
- Once in this position, you are then going to bring your ear to your shoulder, feeling a bit of restriction.
- Hold for a second, then return to the starting position.
- You are going to go into a chin tuck and then ear to shoulder. Now this restriction may lessen some as you do this.
- Complete as needed on side where pain is, or both sides.
3. Wall Angels
- Stand up against a wall, or stepping out against the wall a little bit, so your low back is flush on that wall, making sure that part is flush with the wall.
- Bring your arms out beside you, either straight or bent.
- Come up overhead slowly and controlled, then back down working on your shoulder range of motion.
- If you are performing wall angles with your elbows bent, try to keep contact with your pinky as much as you can on the wall.
- With your elbows bent, try at the very end to pull those elbows down tight, so you are squeezing your shoulder blades together at the end to activate your shoulder muscles.
If at any point you feel any radicular symptoms or symptoms coming down into the arm, lessen the range of motion or discontinue the exercise.
What To Do After A Long Journey
Rehydrate – Our bodies are filled with numerous tendons, ligaments, and muscles. If you become dehydrated, that could cause aches and stiffness, as all those components are not getting the lubrication needed to move. Staying hydrated during your travels and after the journey is over will minimize muscle fatigue, cramping, and pain.
Sleep with Support – Sleeping is the best way to recharge after a long drive or flight. Make sure you get plenty of rest at the right time, so you can feel renewed while avoiding any potential jet lag. Try sleeping in a position that’s comfortable for your back and keeps it in alignment. With proper rest, you can reduce the stress on your spine and wake up feeling more refreshed and energized.
Get Neck Pain Out Of The Driver’s Seat
If pain has become an unwelcome stowaway on your vacation, and you just can’t seem to shake it, schedule an appointment with us at Airrosti. Our providers can find the root cause of your pain and treat it right at the source. We’re ready to help you live, travel, and spend the rest of your vacations pain free.
Read our Medical Disclaimer here.