Summer holidays are one of the highlights of the year and even though restrictions are lifting, many of us are choosing to stay closer to home and enjoy some time away in the UK. Travelling long distances in the car, taking on new outdoor activities or sleeping in a new bed can all cause unwanted pain in your neck or back, so chiropractor and member of the British Chiropractic Association, Marc Sanders gives his top tips on avoiding discomfort in your back so you can enjoy a comfortable staycation.
It’s easier said than done but only bring the essentials. Make life easier by lightening the load and leaving behind that 7th pair of shoes that you won’t wear! The recommended maximum weight of a backpack is 10-15% of your body weight, so no need to pack for three weeks when you are only going away for one.
Also be sure to lift any suitcases into the car by bending through the knees and hips to use your leg muscles and try to keep your back straight – this is often a cause of strain and getting into pain before your staycation has even started is less than ideal!
It’s likely that you’ll be spending time in a car on the way to your destination, but long hours spent in a vehicle can cause aches and pains.
If you’re driving, try to keep your thighs as parallel to the floor as your seat will allow and adjust the head restraint so you can feel the centre of the support touch the middle of the back of your head. Bring your seat all the way up so it’s straight and then take it back until you are comfortable whilst maintaining a 110 degree angle between your back and thighs. You should be able to push the pedals to the floor with a bend in your knees.
If you are a passenger and find it uncomfortable when sat in the car, try placing a small rolled-up pillow, blanket or towel between your lower back and the seat for a bit of extra support. Also, bring a travel neck pillow to give yourself better support when sleeping in a seated position.
It’s also important to take regular stops so you can get up and stretch as well as going for a short walk. This will help to keep muscles and joints loose and avoid tightness.
Hitting the hills
With beautiful scenery on our doorstep, hiking is often commonplace in British holidays. To prevent back ache from getting between you and your next outdoor adventure, wear flat, supportive and flexible footwear and a bag that can be carried on both shoulders and has adjustable straps to distribute the weight evenly. Improve your balance by keeping your hands out of your pockets and off your straps to avoid any slips or falls.
Pedalling into the sunset
Cycling is another activity many of us enjoy whilst away, but if you aren’t used to hitting the pedals regularly it can cause discomfort. Avoid straining your back, neck, shoulders or wrists when on your bike by ensuring you are set up in a safe and comfortable position. You should be able to reach the handlebars with no more than a 60-degree angle of your back relative to the floor. Try positioning your seat so you’re flat or sloping slightly forwards to minimise strain on your lower back and adjusting your seat to the right height to allow maximum pedalling efficiency; when the pedal is at the bottom, you should be able to sit on the seat with your leg almost straight with only a slight bend at the knee.
You may find yourself sleeping in a different bed or even on an air mattress or camp bed during your travels. To get a better night’s sleep wherever you are, make sure you adopt a good sleeping position. Your head shouldn’t be too high, so try sleeping with one pillow if you usually sleep with two, this allows for a neutral or near neutral neck position. You’ll naturally change positions whilst you sleep, but when you first get into bed the best position is on your side, so your neck isn’t twisted.
Make sure you stay off tech before sleeping too! Not only does using technology make it harder for you to settle down to sleep due to the way it stimulates the brain, it can also cause back or neck pain due to your neck not being properly supported while you’re looking down at your screen especially if you haven’t moved your neck much after a long journey to your destination during the day.
Lounging in the sun
If you’re lucky enough to enjoy some British sunshine on your holiday, it may be tempting to lie on a sun lounger or on the beach floor all day. However, one in ten people point to inactivity as a common trigger of back pain, so make sure you move around regularly. Break up those Vitamin D top up sessions with a dip in the sea or walk on the beach.
It’s really easy to become dehydrated in hot weather or whilst you’re more active. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids to avoid the dangers of dehydration such as cramp and heat exhaustion.