The week of Thanksgiving is the busiest traveling time of the year in the United States, with Wednesday being the most busy day. Traveling can be a big cause of anxiety for many people. Not only is there the stress of planning, packing, and preparing for the trip, but in addition to all of that, people who suffer with neck pain have the added concern of how to make it through the actual trip without aggravating their neck and causing more pain!
Whether it be in a car, plane, or train, being forced to sit in upright seats for a long period of time can sometimes cause severe pain in both the lower back and the neck. A study on ergonomics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that a common cause of disorders of the musculoskeletal system is simply maintaining an awkward position for a prolonged period. This includes the neck, which is extremely vulnerable to problems while traveling but is often commonly overlooked by many people until it is too late.
While many people have accepted neck pain and discomfort as being normal, it definitely is not. If you do not address the neck pain, you can wind up experiencing shooting pain, tightness in your shoulders, recurring headaches, disc pain, and even arthritis. These 6 tips will help you to protect your neck and prevent neck pain from occurring while taking a trip:
- Bring a Pillow - A good travel pillow can be a great investment to help prevent neck pain. They are extremely helpful in keeping the neck in a safe and neutral position. Most are even small enough to fit in a carry-on so they can be brought on planes.
- Roll Up a Blanket - If you don't have a travel pillow or couldn't bring it with, try rolling up a blanket to place behind your neck. Or if a blanket is not available, any kind of clothing will work, such as a shirt, shorts, or a jacket. Bunch up whatever you are using so it is about the size of your fist, and place it at the nape of your neck to give yourself optimal support.
- Avoid Drooping - Your neck is curved like the letter "C", and whenever this natural curve of your neck is altered for a prolonged period it can lead to severe neck pain. This often occurs from doing activities like reading, or using a tablet or smartphone, where people are usually looking down for extended periods without even realizing it. Doing this repeatedly can often lead to degeneration of the discs in your neck.
- DO NOT Aim Fans At Your Neck - When it is hot, many people like to aim fans directly on their neck because they think it cools them down faster. This is a big mistake. All of that cold air focused directly on the neck cools the muscles down and can cause muscle spasms and pain.
- Adjust Your Headrest - Many people set their headrest to match with their stature and height. But instead, you should set it to an elevated position so that the middle of the headrest touches the middle of your head. This keeps your neck in a more neutral position.
- Stretch - Stretch as much as possible! After just 20 minutes of your spine being idle, the discs can start to become enlarged and cause discomfort and pain. Doing a few gentile stretches can help to alleviate this problem. Also try to get up as soon as possible and move around a bit.
At the Illinois Back Institute we strive to educate everyone as much as possible about their back pain and sciatica, because it is proven that the more people know about their problem the more likely they are to eliminate it!
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