With warmer weather right around the corner, many of us are looking forward to taking some time off as we plan our next summer vacation.
Whether you are planning to visit family, explore a new city or just relax on the beach, it’s important to remember these easy tips from your Physical Therapist so you can stay injury- and pain-free as you travel.
Pack with your back in mind. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 54,000 luggage-related injuries were reported in 2009 . Many of these injuries occurred to the back, neck and shoulders and were probably caused by struggling with heavy, over-packed luggage. Therefore, it is important to pack as light as possible in an easy-to-roll suitcase. Also make sure you keep your lower back and neck aligned properly to minimize strain when you are lifting your bags off the luggage carousel or down from an overhead bin.
Choose sleeping accommodations that are less likely to cause neck and back pain. New research shows that it is best to sleep on a mattress with medium firmness  so read online reviews or call the hotel before booking to ensure you will get a pain-free night's sleep.
Stretch and move on long drives or flights. If you are going to be sitting in a car or plane for a long period of time, try to stretch your muscles and walk around whenever you can. This will help maintain blood flow to your muscles and keep your joints from stiffening up. If possible, walk or move around for 2-3 minutes after prolonged sitting and before lifting luggage or supplies to allow your muscles to re-balance and your joints to loosen up.
Keep up your exercise routine. While you're away it's easy to spend your days lounging by the pool or sunning yourself on the beach, but taking a vacation doesn't mean taking a break from exercise. Inactivity is a major cause of joint stiffness and pain  so try taking a brisk walk on the beach for 15-20 minutes every day or do a few laps in the hotel pool. Remember, there are lots of ways to stay active on your holiday and still have fun!
Learn how to prevent golf injuries. For many, the greens of the golf course are the perfect backdrop for a summer vacation; however, more than 36,000 people sustain injuries while playing golf each year  – usually to their lower back, elbow and wrist . To help prevent injuries, pay close attention to maintain proper swing mechanics and club grip through all the holes. Also ensure you always use the right equipment. Visit our golf section for more information
Stretch, stretch and stretch some more. Before doing any type of physical activity – from golfing to hiking to white water rafting – invest some time in warming up and stretching your legs and arms. Every summer thousands of people suffer from sprains and strains that could have been avoided with a few minutes of dynamic (active) stretching before. Dynamic stretching involves repeated but controlled movements through your range of motion to prepare your muscle for the demands of your activity. You start with slow, low intensity movements like arm and leg swings and gradually progress to full speed movements and sport specific drills. Save your static stretches for your cool-down after you play.
Don’t overdo it! No matter what activities you chose to do on your vacation, be conscious of your body and its needs. Remember, everything in moderation!
Wear flip-flops wisely. While flip-flops may be ideal for the beach or pool, they can be dangerous if you wear them during vigorous activities like hiking and are not the best footwear for even less strenuous activities like sightseeing. Research has shown that wearing flip-flops shortens your stride length and causes force to be unevenly distributed when your foot hits the ground . This can put excess strain on your ankles, knees, hips and lower back, which can cause serious pain and injury over time.
For more tips on how to get your muscles, bones and joints ready for an energetic and pain-free summer or to have your physical condition evaluated before a trip, contact your Physical Therapist. Remember – knowledge and preparation are your best defenses against future pain and injury.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Tips for lifting and carrying luggage. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00061. August 2011.
Kovacs FM, Abraira V, Pena A, et al. Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomised, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial. Lancet. 2003;362:1599-1604.
Vuori I. Physical inactivity is a cause and physical activity is a remedy for major public health problems. Kinesiology. 2004;36(2):123-153.
Parziale JR, Mallon WJ. Golf injuries and rehabilitation. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2006;17:589-607.
McHardy AJ, Pollard HP. Golf and upper limb injuries: a summary and review of the literature. Chiropr Osteopat. 2005;13(7).
Auburn University. AU study shows that overuse of flip-flops can lead to orthopedic problems. http://wireeagle.auburn.edu/news/359. June 3, 2008.
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