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Pain-free travel hacks from orthopedic experts.


Pain-Free Holiday Travel

Spending the holidays pain-free allows you to joyfully celebrate with the family and friends you’ve traveled to see. However, holiday errands and travels can sometimes cause people to overdo it, resulting in pain and injury to joints, muscles and bones.

Last year, AAA reported that one in three Americans traveled over the holidays. If traveling by plane, train or automobile is in your plans this year, keep reading to see how to prevent injuries and keep pain in check while on the road, and at your destination.


Avoid joint pain and move while you are on the move

Spending hours stuck in a seat anywhere can cause the body to stiffen up. Traveling itself can be stressful, which adds to physical discomfort and worsens orthopedic pain for those already at risk.

The easiest way to avoid achy, swollen joints is simply to keep them moving. Movement and moderate exercise offer a host of benefits including:

  • Stimulating blood flow and loosening muscles
  • Strengthening muscles around joints
  • Helping to maintain bone strength
  • Providing more energy throughout the day
  • Preventing blood clots from forming in legs

While you are en route, there are a few specific things you can do to avoid stiffness and pain. If you are traveling by car, make frequent stops to stretch and walk around. If you’re on a train or plane, find an aisle seat for more legroom. Try to get up regularly to walk up and down aisles.


Easing back and neck pain

While seated, make yourself comfortable and ease strain by supporting your neck and back. For back pain, travel with a lumbar support pillow or roll up a jacket to place behind your lower back. Back pain can also be prevented with proper foot support. If your seat is too high, rest your feet on a footrest and keep your knees at a right angle. If you’re doing the driving, consider using cruise control for longer drives so both feet can rest on the floor. For your neck, inflatable travel pillows provide head support and reduce your chances of neck stiffness if you fall asleep.


As you’re probably aware, hot and cold therapies work well for pain and stiffness. If you are traveling by car or train, bring your own heat wraps, pads or portable ice packs for the trip. You can use these at your destination too. On planes, one-use heat warmers work well. For cold therapy, ask for a plastic bag filled with ice.


Get by with a little help from friends

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, many back, neck and shoulder injuries come from carrying luggage that’s too heavy. Use a light, rolling suitcase or travel with a few smaller bags to keep weight in check. You may even consider shipping most of what you need ahead of time to avoid heavy lifting altogether.


If you need more assistance while traveling because pain is inhibiting movement, you have options. Traveling with someone who can help is an obvious choice for driving breaks and to help lift things. Assistive devices such as canes and walkers take the strain off knees and hips if you’ve had joint replacement. For extra assistance at airports, take advantage of pre-boarding, wheelchair and motorized escorts, or call TSA Cares for extra accommodations.


Reducing inflammation and keeping pain in check

It’s easy to indulge during the holidays, but keeping inflammation to a minimum will make you more merry and bright. When traveling, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. It’s good for the body and minimizes joint stiffness.


As for medication, keep it with you while traveling, even if it requires refrigeration. You want it handy if you need it, so don’t check medicines in bags. And remember, being on vacation doesn’t mean a vacation from medicine. Talk to you doctor before traveling to ensure your dosages are correct, especially if you are on pain medicine.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding pain management or other stressors to your orthopedic well-being, let us know. We want your holidays to be as enjoyable and pain-free as possible. Happy joints make for a happier holiday.


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