PREVENTING MUSCLE TENSION DURING TRAVEL

Brrr!! It’s that time of year again when many of us travel (or wish to travel) to warm places to escape the cold. Travel can be a strain on the body whether you're traveling via plane, train or automobile. 

Prolonged sitting in a cramped space can cause muscle tension and create pain in the body.  There are several steps you can take to prevent this pain from occurring in the first place.  

During travel

Move

Sitting for extended periods of time can cause pressure buildup in the blood vessels of the lower legs and restrict your blood flow.  This can be prevented by standing up and moving when possible or even simply contracting and relaxing the muscles to get blood flowing properly. While seated, varying your position can improve circulation and avoid leg cramps.  Massage your legs and calves and also bring your legs in closer to you and move knees up and down.  Try to book an aisle seat when possible, this will give you space to move freely for stretching and more opportunity to stand up during the flight.

Get comfortable

While sitting, you can tuck a pillow behind the low back just above the beltline and another to fill in the gap between your neck and the seat behind you. This will help to maintain the “S” curve in your spine and support your posture during the flight.  If you are on the shorter side bring or ask for another pillow to place under your feet so that your knees are at a 90 degree angle.

Lift smart

Don't be afraid to ask for help lifting your bag into the overhead compartment. If you must complete this activity yourself be sure to stand directly in front of the overhead compartment to avoid twisting the spine. You will want to make sure you keep your knees bent and also avoid rotating the head/neck in the process.   

Hydrate

Keep your body hydrated while travelling by drinking plenty of water. Try avoiding alcohol and caffeine as both tend to make you more dehydrated than just the dry cabin air alone.

Before/After travel

Preparing properly for lengthy travel times can prevent issues later on. Treat your trip as if you were prepping for an athletic event. 

Massage

Schedule a massage before and/or after the trip. Be sure to mention to your massage therapist that you will be traveling so they can work on the proper muscle groups that could potentially tighten up during travel.

Stretch

If we look at the illustration below, we understand the Hamstring muscles and the Illiopsoas muscles are shortened from the many hours of sitting, causing strain on the lower back. If you had to choose two stretches to do pre and post flight, it would be Ilio-Psoas stretch and Hamstring stretch.

[1]

[1]

See these articles for guidance on how to stretch the Hamstrings:

http://www.philamassages.com/blog-1/effective-stretching-with-pnf?rq=hamstrings

http://www.philamassages.com/blog-1/understanding-hamstring-strains-pop?rq=hamstrings

And this one for guidance on Iliopsoas stretching:

http://www.philamassages.com/blog-1/the-elusive-psoas?rq=psoas

If you have more time, do more thorough stretching and mobility exercises before hopping on the plane, and complete these same exercises post arrival. The guide below is a helpful reference:

[2]

[2]

Strengthen

Stabilizing and strengthening the deep abdominal muscles can provide support for the spine and alleviate lower back discomfort.  Doing planks and side planks are great examples of how to keep these muscles strong. 

Remember to let your massage therapist know about your travels and can assist in preventative measures.  Safe and happy travels everyone!!!

 

Image references (retrieved 1/29/18):

  1. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/stretches-for-sitting-long-periods-of-time
  2. http://www.magicalrobot.org/BeingHuman/2011/03/office-ergonomics-why-sitting-will-kill-you

Other references (retrieved 1/29/18):

  1. http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/thigh-pain/back-thigh/tight-hamstrings-stretching

This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.