Enjoy a carefree and pain-free holiday

May 2013

Over recent years, many of us have dispensed with restful and relaxing breaks and use our annual leave to experience new and exciting exploits. Following an activity holiday, perhaps tackling the high-seas, trekking a mountain range or taking in the sights from a cycle or horseback, you may expect to return home with a few aches and pains. Interestingly, Sarah Considine, Spinal Physiotherapist treats as many patients for injuries sustained due to far more mundane activities in her clinic at Spire Norwich Hospital. Often they can be the result of an injury sustained on the journey to and from their chosen destination. If you’re about to set off on holiday, take heed of Sarah’s advice – look out for how many of Sarah’s observations apply to your family holiday.

The dreaded loft – “For most of us the holiday starts with a mad dash from work or looking after the family without enough time to pack and prepare. We typically begin our holiday preparation in a stressful state which is often exacerbated when trying to recover dusty suitcases from the loft! Please don’t attempt to balance precariously on a dining room chair at the end of the day when you’re tired or stressed and don’t lean into the loft space at awkward angles and drag heavy cases on to your head.

Packing your case – “There aren’t many times when you’ll carry or drag 20 kilo’s behind you. Make sure you spread the weight equally when packing your case. Ideally have suitcases with wheels you can pull rather than lift and, keep your elbows tucked into your waist as you pull to avoid twisting your back. When you arrive at check-in, avoid the customary ‘one-handed swing’ technique to launch your case on to the conveyor, remember to bend your knees and keep a straight back.

Travelling – “On long journeys change your position at regular intervals avoiding static postures. Simple exercises like rolling your shoulders and looking over each shoulder five times every hour can help avoid a stiff neck. Add these to the circulatory exercises which help to avoid deep vein thrombosis (making circles with your feet, bending and straightening your knees, squeezing your muscles tight then relaxing, standing up and walking about). If your one of those lucky people who manages to sleep in transit, use a neck support during your trip. If you find sitting uncomfortable, try a lumber roll to give you extra support.

The conveyer belt – “If you’ve flown abroad be careful when getting your luggage from the conveyer belt. Why not wait for the crowds to disperse, your luggage wont mind if it’s been round twice! When you approach the scrum of weary travellers making sure their luggage hasn’t ended up on the wrong continent, give yourself plenty of room between you and the next person so when you recover your case, there is somewhere to put it down. Try not to pull and twist to get your bag off the conveyer and put it onto a trolley in one motion, break the movement up into stages – lift the bag, hold close to your chest, step your feet round to your trolley then lower the bag down by bending your knees. When pushing a luggage trolley, be aware that you now have the weight of your entire luggage in one go. Use both hands with elbows tucked into your waist and push whilst walking slowly.

Children – “Taking children on holiday often means carrying them when they are tired or asleep – it’s best to avoid this as much as possible. Keep your pushchair with you, find a seat they can sleep on or even change the time you travel so they’re awake. If carrying your children is unavoidable, be careful not to hunch your shoulders and don’t lean to one side, try not to walk far with them in your arms.

Adventure and Activity – “The clue is in the title “Activity”, while activity can be great fun, make sure you are physically fit before you go. Fifty weeks sat motionless in front of your computer isn’t ideal training for 2 weeks on the slopes or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with a week’s provision in a rucksack. If you carry a rucksack that is too big and heavy, it will give you additional weight and pressure on your lower spine. Take a small rucksack with you and only pack the essentials for the day. Make sure you wear both straps over both shoulders and keep them tight. Cycling holidays can be a great opportunity to explore your new destination but can give deep seated buttock pain. If taking your own bicycle, make sure it has an MOT before you travel and the seat is well padded. If hiring one, look around and make sure you get the best bike available.

Beach holidays – Don’t think a relaxing beach holiday comes without its hazards. Building sand castles with your children may be obligatory and walking back and forth from the sea with buckets full of water is good for movement and exercise – but avoid injury by bending your knees and not your lower back to fill up your bucket. Bending using your knees and keeping your back straight should avoid any sudden muscle spasm. Rock pools are uneasy places to climb and you often end up resting in a bent position with your hands forward on rocks to support your self. When looking into rock pools, stand up tall. If you need a closer look, squat or bend at your knees – alternatively, ask your children what they see.

Don’t relax too much – “Holidays often consist of rest and more rest. If you’re usually an active person and you suddenly stop for two weeks you may find you feel a bit stiff when moving from one position to another. Try and keep as active as you normally would be - this will also help avoid the holiday tummy we all develop which again affects the pressure on your spine and can lead to back ache.

Sarah Considine concludes, “Holidays are a great time to spend relaxing your mind and spending time with friends and families. We often think that nothing can go wrong on holiday and try things we wouldn’t normally put our bodies through. Take time to think about the things you do and how you are doing them… have a save trip and a lovely holiday.

For further information about the physiotherapy services available at Spire Norwich Hospital, please contact one of the team on 01603 255 587.

The content of this page is provided for general information only. It should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional.

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