5 Things Your Physiotherapist Wishes You Know About Travelling
It’s the holiday season and definitely the time to travel! Singaporeans LOVE to travel, with our champion red passport. Unfortunately, many travelers get injured during their holidays. Abigail Tan, our Senior Physiotherapist, shares 5 tips to stay injury free this holiday season.
1. PLANNING YOUR HOLIDAY DESTINATION & ACTIVITIES WISELY
Injuries can happen when one takes on too much physical activity suddenly. Travelers who usually lead a sedentary lifestyle often find that their body is not ready to handle the physical demands of outdoor sports like skiing and mountain climbing during the holidays. For those who barely exercise or don’t walk for more than a few thousand steps a day, they will find that even the leisurely walks through new cities day after day become very tiresome on their legs.
It is often much safer to do targeted exercises or training in the 12 weeks leading up to your holiday to prepare your body for what it’s about to experience. Warm-up and cool-down stretching before and after these activities will be very helpful. For those who are undergoing physiotherapy for existing injuries, you should discuss with your physiotherapist if you are physically able to handle the activities and how to prepare for it.
2. CHOOSE YOUR BAG WISELY
Not all suitcases are created equal! Choose one that rolls smoothly, and has a light but sturdy frame. Avoid over-packing and making your suitcase too heavy. Choose a luggage with wheels and a handle.
Keep in mind your travel destination – are there a lot of stairs? Will there be paved paths to wheel your suitcase down? If not, you might want to consider choosing a bag that can be put on like a backpack in case you run a path that is not accommodating, such as the subway stairs of Japan or the steps over the bridges of Venice.
When packing a backpack, try to put the heaviest items closest to your back. This keeps the weight close to your centre of gravity and that means you do not have to spend as much energy holding it up. Get a friend with experience to fit your pack to you (with and without stuff in it!), and adjust the straps to your size to make sure you’ve got the best fit for you and the load you’re carrying. When using a backpack, ensure that it has two padded and adjustable shoulder straps to balance the weight equally.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need to load bags into overhead lockers, vehicles or suitcase lockers! You can make an extra friend while travelling! Packing well, and wearing your pack well can avoid a whole lot of unwanted neck, shoulder, back and leg injuries during travel.
3. ENSURE CORRECT LIFTING & CARRYING TECHNIQUES
The larger and heavier your luggage, the more at risk you are for neck, back, and shoulder injuries. Lifting and carrying bulky luggage can strain your bones, muscles, and joints.
Here are some tips from to prevent injuries with lifting and carrying:
- Be sure to lift from your legs and not your back. To do this, keep your back straight and bend at the knees – not the waist – to pick items up from the ground.
- Avoid twisting while carrying suitcases and bags. If you have to turn, point your toes in the direction you are headed and turn your entire body in that direction.
- Carry pieces in both of your hands rather than one hand off to the side. This can decrease stress to the spine. Less weight on any one arm can also reduce the risk of developing “suitcase elbow,” a chronic condition similar to “tennis elbow.”
- When placing luggage in an overhead compartment, first lift it onto the top of the seat. Place your hands on the left and right sides of the suitcase and lift it up. If your luggage has wheels, make sure the wheel-side is set in the compartment first. Once wheels are inside, put one hand atop the luggage and push it to the back of the compartment. To remove the luggage, reverse this process.
The key is to mai kan jeong (not to rush) when lifting or carrying a suitcase. Seek help if you are unable to manage it on your own!
4. PACKING THE PROPER FOOTWEAR & ANY OTHER EQUIPMENT
If you are planning to go on a hiking trip during your travel, you will need to research on the weather conditions and terrain which you will be hiking on, so as to pack the appropriate shoes for your hike. For example, hiking in the Scottish Highlands where the trails can be rough, uneven and slippery, you will need a pair of waterproof boots with good ankle support and good grip on the sole.
If you’ve got any prescribed tools for your movement or health, like insoles, walking aids or therabands for a hotel-room physiotherapy exercise routine, make sure you take them with you. Continuing your normal self-care routine goes a long way to avoiding preventable injuries.
5. FITNESS ON FLIGHT: EXERCISES FOR FLYING
The most common issues I see tend to surround prolonged sitting – planes, trains, buses, ferries – they almost always require you to stay seated for a really long time. Our bodies are designed to move, bend, twist and lift, so when you cramp it into a small space and stay really still for a long time, it’s going to let you know about it one way or another!
The best way to get around this is to take small movement breaks, in addition to the toilet breaks! Get up and move around regularly. The exercise techniques are as unobtrusive as possible, but regardless, don’t be concerned at all about the curious stares from the other passengers. Your back/legs/neck/hips will thank you when you get to your destination and can comfortably walk off the plane, pain-free.
We hope these tips will be useful for you for your trip this holiday season. Stay safe, and enjoy your trip. Happy Holidays!
–Abigail Tan, Senior Physiotherapist