Now that it is summer time, many of us plan to hit the road (or the sky) to visit family and/or friends or to get away for some rest and relaxation! Now imagine crawling around on the floor because you can’t stand up as your best laid plans are derailed by a bad episode of low back pain (LBP). Why the pain while vacationing? Sitting is a major contributing factor to low back pain. Combine sitting followed by bending and twisting as you load and unload heavy bags—you’re setting yourself up for a miserable time!
Low back pain (LBP) is estimated to affect nearly 80% of the U.S. population at one time or another, and it is one of the top reasons for physician visits. Fortunately, most LBP is mechanical–meaning it is from a physical or structural cause not related to conditions such as cancer or infections. The problem with this type of LBP is that it usually comes back. People who have had an episode of mechanical LBP are 90% more likely to experience it again. It’s best to minimize your risk factors for experiencing LBP by being pro-active.
My Top 7 Tips to Prevent Low Back Pain While Traveling include:
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking is one of the top risk factors in LBP. Even cutting back can decrease your risk.
- Limit the amount of sitting that you spend at one time. Get out of a sitting position every hour, and ideally, walk. If you aren’t able to walk, then try to shift your position at least once every twenty minutes. Frequent position changes can help to avoid LBP.
- Sit with good posture. Whenever possible, make sure your knees stay below your hip level and that you are able to maintain your natural lumbar curve. A great tool to help you with this is a lumbar roll (http://amzn.to/1nRlh9a).
- Standing Back Extensions: After sitting, stand up, and perform standing back extensions. I encourage performing at least 10 repetitions each time you stand.
- Stretch Your Hip Flexors: After performing standing back extensions, it’s time to stretch your hip flexors. The hip flexors tend to tighten up during prolonged sitting. When they spasm, it can cause LBP because they attach directly to the spine. Stand with a good upright posture, with your feet straight ahead, and bend your front knee until you feel the opposite hip flexor stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat two to three times on each side.
- Press-ups: Lie on your stomach and perform 10 to 20 press-ups before you leave from home, when convenient and safe during your travels, and when you arrive at your destination. Go slow and easy, but work your way up to full motion. I encourage performing this multiple times a day as time allows.
- Stretch Your Hamstrings: Find a doorway and stretch your hamstrings before you leave from home, when convenient and safe during your travels, and when you arrive at your destination. I recommend at least one minute per side and preferably two repetitions per side.
If you are prone to LBP and want to dig deeper on self-treatment options, I highly recommend reading Robin McKenzie’s book, Treat Your Own Back (http://amzn.to/1nStetv). His method is the easiest, yet most effective, method in treating and managing low back pain.
My final tip to manage low back pain is to work with a physical therapist to learn methods to strengthen the lumbar extensor muscles and core musculature. If available, seek a physical therapist who utilizes the MedX system as it has solid research on LBP and targeted strengthening. Research clearly indicates that the right targeted exercises are the most effective way to manage LBP. I will provide more specific low back exercises in the future, so stay tuned. Good luck and safe travels!
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