How to Avoid Holiday Back Pain

Back pain very often flares up when on holiday.  The reasons for this will be particular to your own back problem, but here are a few common dangers and possible solutions, some of them a bit tongue-in-cheek, as I’m in the holiday mood myself…

 

Lifting/carrying luggage

This is to do with “peak load“.  If you’re not used to lifting heavy loads your back may not cope.

Solutions:

  • Get someone to do it for you
  • Take less stuff – you don’t really need more than 2 pairs of shoes on holiday
  • Prepare for the lift (brace your abdomen)
  • Keep the load in close to you
  • Carry it for as brief a time as possible (use wheels where provided)
  • Spread the load evenly between right and left
  • Put it down carefully
  • Train your back for heavy lifting, before going on holiday

 

Different Beds

This is very common; a change of bed/mattress will lead to different levels of support to those your back is used to.  This can be a good thing – sometimes people report their back felt “the best it has in months after a night on that hotel bed”; if so, then find out what the mattress is and see whether you can get one at home!  More commonly a change of beds triggers a flare-up, although it’s worth asking yourself whether you’re spending longer in bed on holiday (this can lead to your back stiffening up over the longer period you are lying down), or whether you’re doing something in bed on holiday that you don’t normally do – I’ll leave this to your imagination.

Solutions:

  • Don’t sleep in for as long
  • If the base of the bed has springs, put the mattress on the floor (but mind your back with that peak load!)
  • Make a scene (tears of pain running down your face help), and insist on a better bed

 

Prolonged (Cramped) Sitting

Whether it’s on the flight, car, or ferry trip, prolonged sitting on the way to your destination can put sustained load on your lower back.  This can be just as dangerous for your back as heavy lifts.   Sitting around on holiday is just plain bad for you.  Get up and shake a leg!

Solutions:

  • Get up and move around
  • Make like an athlete – do some stretches by the emergency exit on the plane

 

Not doing your exercises

This is an all-too-common story.  When you’re looking after your back, in a nice routine at home, all is well.  Holidays and other travel interrupt your routine and the exercises get forgotten.  This may be the most important factor out of all those I mention here.

Solutions:

  • Make sure your exercises are part of your routine on holiday too – brush your teeth, do your exercises!

 

Stress

Perhaps surprisingly, stress is a frequent trigger for those who have had back pain before.  This is all to do with the workings of your neuroendocrine system (nerves and hormones); they are intricately connected and if you’re stressed about anything this can trigger your back pain pattern/memory in your nervous system.

Solutions:

  • Don’t travel with people who stress you out (leave the kids at home)
  • Keep meditating when on holiday – or start if you haven’t done it before
  • If you find holidays stressful, just stay at home

And if your back is still bothering you after your holiday, give us a ring 😉  or email me, or book online from your holiday destination!

 

gavin@active-x.co.uk

 

PS If you can think of any other contributors to holiday back pain, feel free to leave a comment below…

 

About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, and author of "active X backs - and effective solution for lower back pain"; he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.

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