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Natural Awakenings

Back-Friendly Travel: Chiropractic Tips Ease Stress and Strain

Oct 05, 2011 04:49PM ● By Barb Amrhein

Travel can literally be a pain. Whether we’re traveling for business or pleasure, long hours in a car, train, bus or plane can leave us stressed, tired, stiff and sore. Chiropractors, often called upon to undo the damages of travel, understand its causes. Fortunately, they also offer a full itinerary of informative tips to help us avoid the pains and strains of getting from here to there.

Part of the problem is prolonged sitting, which “can wreak havoc on the body,” explains Dr. Scott Bautch, a member of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. “Even if you travel in the most comfortable car or fly first-class, certain pressures and forces from awkward positions can result in restricted blood flow.”

Dr. Daniel Hillis, of the Pain Relief Center, in Naples, points out: “Our bodies are designed to move. To avoid backaches and other muscle strains inflicted from long periods of sitting, it’s important to have proper support and to move around whenever possible.”

The ACA suggests treating travel as an athletic event. Warm up before settling into a seat and do a destination cool-down, by taking a brisk walk to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles. Further, try these tips as the ticket for a more comfortable trip.


Adjust the seat so that you are sitting as close to the steering wheel as comfortably possible. Knees should be slightly higher than the hips. Place four fingers behind the back of your thigh at the point closest to the knee. If you cannot easily slide your fingers in and out of that space, readjust the seat.

Use a back support to help reduce the risk of low-back strain, pain or injury. Its widest part should be between the bottom of your rib cage and waistline.

Exercise your legs while driving, in order to reduce the risk of swelling, fatigue or discomfort. Open your toes as wide as possible and count to 10. Count to five while first tightening calf muscles, then thigh muscles, then gluteal muscles.

To minimize arm and hand tension, hold the steering wheel at approximately 3 o’clock and 7 o’clock positions, periodically switching to 10 o’clock and 5 o’clock.

Do not grip the steering wheel. Instead, tighten and loosen your hold to improve hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in arms, wrists and hands.

While keeping your eyes on the road, vary your focal point, to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and tension headaches.

Take rest breaks. Never underestimate the potential consequences of fatigue to yourself, passengers and other drivers.


Stand up straight and feel the spine’s normal ‘S’ curve. Then, use rolled-up pillows or blankets to maintain that curve while sitting in your seat. Tuck a pillow behind your back just above the beltline and lay another pillow across the gap between your neck and the headrest.

Check all bags heavier than 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. While lifting carry-on bags, stand directly in front of the overhead Keep a healthy back while travelingcompartment, so the spine is not rotated. Do not lift bags directly over your head or turn or twist your head and neck in the maneuver.

While seated, vary your position occasionally to improve circulation and avoid leg cramps. Massage legs and calves. Bring legs in and move knees up and down. Prop your legs up on a book or a bag under the seat in front of you.

Avoid sitting directly under the air-conditioning jets. The draft can increase tension in neck and shoulder muscles.

“Also, when you’re flying, if the ‘fasten seatbelt’ light isn’t on, get up every 45 minutes to walk up and down the aisle,” advises Dr. Michelle D. Jourdan, who practices holistic chiropractic techniques at Jourdan Chiropractic Center, in Fort Myers.

“This aids leg circulation and helps you avoid potential back strain. If you have a chronic back problem and are experiencing a lot of pain, ask the flight staff for a small bag of ice. Place a thin towel or your shirt under the ice, and lay it directly over the area of concern.”

Happy travels.

Connect with Dr. Daniel Hillis at 239-597-3929,, and the Pain Relief Center, P.A., 1001 Crosspointe Dr., Ste. 1, in Naples. Connect with Dr. Michelle Jourdan at 239-425-2620,, or Jourdan Chiropractic Center, Beacon Executive Suites, 8359 Beach Blvd., Ste. 409, in Fort Myers.

Sources: American Chiropractic Association;

October is National Chiropractic Month, and this October 16th, chiropractors observe World Spine Day to call attention to the burden of spinal disability and promote better spinal health habits for everyone. The United States features “Straighten Up America” as its theme.

Go to to print a copy of “Straighten Up,” simple illustrated instructions for a three-minute spinal health exercise.

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