The beauty of our planet is surreal. To comprehend the world that we are living in, we need to experience it firsthand. And this experience requires traveling. Although traveling is a rewarding experience and can bring an adrenaline rush, it can also be rough and cause back pain. It might even necessitate trips to or visits from your physical therapist. You might feel aches and strains in muscles that you never paid attention to before. Fortunately, these aches and strains can be easily avoided with preventive measures and preparation.
Travelers usually suffer from pain and strain in the back, shoulders, neck, and legs. According to a health survey conducted last year, the leading cause of soreness and stiffness is sitting for prolonged periods while traveling. The second leading cause is carrying luggage. Exercising various muscle groups regularly before an upcoming trip can go a long way in preventing fatigue and pain.
Best Back Exercises for Preventing Back Pain when Travelling
Since back muscles seem to be the muscle group most affected by traveling, it makes sense to prioritize and target them. If you strengthen your back muscles, your spine will face less pressure.
Back exercises can help in stabilizing the spine and alleviating back pain. The best back exercises will help you adequately train most or all of your back muscles. Here are a few suggestions:
Resistance Band Pull Apart (Perfect for Upper Back Muscles):
This is an exercise that requires only a lightweight resistance band. Easy portability is one of the benefits of resistance bands. You can do this exercise not only before your travels but also when you are on your trip. Resistance band pull-apart is a simple exercise to target your upper back muscles like rear deltoids, rhomboids, and trapezius.
To start, stand with your arms fully extended and holding a resistance band chest high. The band must be parallel to the floor. While keeping your arms straight, stretch them out to each side so that the resistance band extends and comes closer to your chest. Do not bend forward and always keep your torso straight. Return the band to the starting position. Perform at least one set of eight reps.
Deadlifts prepare you for lifting objects. When you travel, you will be hauling around your luggage. Even when you are traveling with necessities, you will still lift, carry, and move your bag/s around. Deadlifts are one of the best back exercises.
Training your body with barbell deadlifts will increase its functional strength. When you travel you can use the barbell in the hotel gyms. This exercise is great for your entire posterior chain. You will be utilizing your upper and lower body muscles for it. Use the weight plate set that is most suitable for you. Here’s how you perform a barbell deadlift:
Keep the bar straight and centered over your feet. This will be its starting position. Let your feet be shoulder-width apart. Toes must be under the bar and pointing straight ahead. Feet flat on the shoulder is another point to remember.
Performing a Barbell Deadlift:
- With your knees bent, you will have to hinge at the hips. At this point, your hips need to be behind your heels. Let your heels bear your weight.
- Grip the barbell with your hands outside the knees. You could use a double overhand grip (your palms facing your body). When going for heavier weights, it is best to use a mixed grip for enhanced grip strength.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades, engage your core, push the floor away, and lift the weight. The barbell might graze your shin. Ensure that the barbell is close to your body and don’t bend backward.
- Slowly lower the bar to the floor, returning it to its starting position. Repeat as desired.
Bent-over-rows always find a place in the best back workouts for a good reason. They can help you correct muscle imbalances. You can move more weight with the bent-over row position. It is possible to perform bent-over-rows with kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, or a cable machine. You can use row variations more suited to your physique to maximize benefit.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart behind a barbell. With your knees slightly bent and your back straight, hinge at your hips. With an overhand grip, grasp the barbell. Your body should be at an angle of not more than 45 degrees and the barbell should be around your knees. Pull the barbell up to your chest, hold it for a second, and then lower it again. Return the barbell to the floor only when you are done with all the repetitions. Try to complete 3 sets of at least 6 repetitions.
Additional Tips for Back Workouts:
Chest-supported row using an incline bench can help counteract the effects of sitting too long in one position. You can level up your lifting and back workouts with a squat rack.
With a cable machine back workout, you can target specific muscle groups. There will be constant tension on the muscles for the entire range of motion, and you will get better muscle contractions.
With a neutral grip seated cable row, you can target the muscles in your mid back.
If you prefer workouts that do not require any special equipment, or ones that you can do easily anywhere, use your body weight for strength training. In such workouts, your body weight will provide the required resistance against gravity.
Exercises for Travel-Related Leg Aches
Next, travelers tend to feel aches and strains most in their legs (after the back). You can prevent such pain to a considerable degree by increasing the strength of your legs. Exercise your legs with targeted movements like the following:
With lunges, you can train your body for hikes. Lunges can improve your balance and flexibility, boost your metabolism, improve functional fitness, and strengthen your lower body muscles.
Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. With a straight torso and hands on your hips, step forward and land in a heel-to-toe way. Stabilize yourself, then bend and lower your hips and knees until the knee at the back is about two inches above the ground. At the lowest position of the lunge, both your legs should form approximately 90-degree angles.
Hold for a second, then slowly push back into an upright position using your glute and quad. Then return to the starting position. Perform repetitions and alternate the sides.
You can do this exercise anywhere. Which is why it is a great exercise for traveling. All you need is something to step on. You could use a flat bench, chair, or even the staircase.
Step-ups can increase your functional range of motion. They activate your lower body muscle groups. To perform step-ups, stand facing the step.
Start by placing your right foot on the step, then shift your weight and bring yourself ultimately onto the step with your left foot. Pause, then step down with your right foot first and then lower your left foot to meet the right. After your desired reps, lead with the left foot and do more reps.
For a start, try ten steps with each foot. Perform three such sets.
When it comes to developing the strength of the legs, we must not overlook or underestimate the power of squats. Squats can strengthen the leg muscles and the knee joints. With squats, you can increase the overall mobility of the lower body.
To perform squats, start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees, and with your hips pushed back, slowly lower yourself down as if you are about to sit on a chair. Make sure your feet are firmly on the ground. Straighten your legs to return to the starting position.
You can do these exercises in your house, your hotel room, or even outdoors. You don’t have to carry any special equipment and you don’t require too much space.
Alleviating or Preventing Neck Pain and Ache between the Shoulder Blades
According to a study conducted on military pilots, exercise improved the neck muscle strength of the pilots and it also had a protective effect against neck pain. If exercise can protect military pilots against aches and strains, it can definitely offer us back pain relief while traveling.
Shoulder Scapular Squeeze
For this exercise, you must squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold this position for a few seconds. Return to a relaxed position, then repeat. Squeeze your shoulder blades only up to a comfortable level. Do 10 repetitions of this exercise twice a day. You can do this exercise anywhere, even in your car or on the plane.
For your starting position, you will stand with your feet shoulder-width apart near a wall. Keep your arms extended. Place your palms on the wall, just a little below shoulder level. Slowly lower yourself (upper body) towards the wall, while bending your elbows. When your chest is almost touching the wall, hold your position for a few seconds, then lift yourself back up and into the starting position.
While these exercises are for preventing aches and strains that you could suffer from on account of your travels, they might also help you if you tend to sit down and tense your shoulders a lot. For instance, if you are a workaholic, a gamer, or a type of person who plays a lot of card games like hearts-play online, these exercises can help tense shoulders.
Tips to Prevent Back Pain When Traveling for Extended Periods
- Think of travel as a sport. Prepare your body with appropriate exercises before trips. When you reach, if possible, use foam rollers or alternate between heat therapy and cold therapy to reduce pain. Carry a heating pad and cold pack with you on a long trip.
- Sitting for extended periods (in a plane, car, or other means of transport), can make you stiff and cause back pain. Get up for a quick stretch or if possible, take a walk. Varying your position while sitting will also help improve your blood circulation. Avoid sitting in unnaturally bent positions. Instead of continuously leaning forward, use a small pillow for neck and lumbar support. If you do not carry a neck pillow, a rolled-up jacket may do the trick.
- For long flights, instead of a heavy shoulder bag that is bound to cause back pain, use a trolley bag. Allow yourself to be comfortable; avoid overcrowding your seat with your carry-on luggage. Ask the flight attendants to help you find space for your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin.
- Do take care of your diet. Remember to keep yourself well-hydrated while traveling. While going for hikes or long road trips, make sure to carry a water bottle with you.
- Plan ahead and make strategic rest stops. Whether it is during long-distance driving, biking, or hiking, taking stretch breaks will help you relax. You could also do some yoga during such breaks.
- Try to get a sufficient amount of sleep wherever and whenever you are stopping for the night. Sleep deprivation can be an underlying cause of chronic back pain.
- If you suffer from any medical conditions, consult your doctor or physical therapist before traveling. If you suffer from chronic back pain, it might be better for you to travel in business class for long flights. Booking during off-peak times will prove more economical. If that’s not possible, try to book an aisle seat.
A final note on traveling back pain
A body that is trained and toned is unlikely to suffer from as much travel-related aches and strains as one that is usually inactive.
Your efforts for strengthening your body will unlock the fitness that you may have previously not even imagined. A fit body is going to take you places. You can get the best out of your travel experiences with some prior body preparation and taking good care of yourself. This will save you from the most common back pain from traveling and allow you to enjoy your trip.
FAQs about traveling back pain
If you experience back pain after traveling, try to keep your spine straight during the journey, take breaks to stretch and walk, use lumbar pillows, and apply heat or cold packs to alleviate discomfort.
To help with back pain after a flight or traveling, consider gentle stretching exercises, using a foam roller to massage sore muscles, taking over-the-counter pain medication if needed, using ice packs if you are swollen, and getting sufficient rest.
Lower back pain may occur when traveling due to prolonged sitting in cramped spaces, lack of movement, and improper support for your back while seated.
To decompress after a flight, engage in light physical activity such as walking, perform stretching exercises, take a warm bath, stay hydrated, and get a good night’s sleep to aid in recovery and reduce post-flight discomfort.
BEST TRAVEL RESOURCES
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT:
Not sure how to get the best and cheapest flights? Use Skyscanner for the best deals. The great tip is to be flexible with dates and destinations if you want the best deals.
Alternatively, get a membership with Wayaway and receive a cashback on cheap flights and hotels every time you book! Via the link, you even get a 10% discount on your membership.
BOOK GREAT ACCOMMODATION:
Booking great accommodation is not difficult, but it sucks overpaying. Use Booking.com for the greatest hotel deals and Hostelworld for amazing hostel stays. Also, sign up for Worldpackers to get FREE accommodation in exchange for work.
BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE:
Traveling without insurance is a mistake that you shouldn't make - trust me, I’ve done it. I suggest SafetyWing since they offer great and flexible policies - especially for long-term traveling or for digital nomads. World Nomads is the best insurance with extensive coverage.
NEED HELP WITH YOUR VISA?
Figuring out how and when you need a visa can be a bit of a jungle. iVisa is a very handy and user-friendly service.
HAS YOUR EU FLIGHT BEEN DISRUPTED?
Use AirHelp as a service to get flight compensation on your European flights in case your flight was delayed, canceled, or disrupted in other ways. Often you are actually entitled to compensation!