• Alyssa Glover

Sore back while travelling? Read this!

Have you ever strained a muscle while pulling a heavy suitcase, or retrieving a slightly over the limit carry-on from the overhead luggage compartment? Enduring pain or injury while travelling is more common than you think! With proper attention, load-carrying techniques and regular stretching, pain while travelling can be a thing of the past! We have compiled some simple tips to help conquer the most common causes of injury when travelling, because that is the last thing you want this holiday season!

· Limit excessive bag weight We know, we know… We only pack the essentials, right? It’s hard to cut down on excessive baggage sometimes, but a lighter load means less pressure on the body.

· Alternate between right and left arms when pulling heavy suitcases Suitcases that have wheels on each corner are a fantastic alternative as the weight is more evenly distributed. If you are travelling with a satchel or heavy handbag, make sure to alternate between shoulders when carrying the item. Straps holding heavy items on one side of the body will put the spine out of balance, as the body naturally tips to the side to accommodate the heavy weight. If you can, swap to a backpack!

· Hold the item close to the body When a weighted item is held away from the body (such as lifting an item into the back of your boot with your arms outstretched) the muscles will work harder to maintain that weight. This can cause fatigue and, in some cases, injury. So, hold your heavy items as close as possible to avoid injury. And try to place close to the ground or waist height. That’s right – no hiding heavy presents on the top shelf in your wardrobe!

So, your suitcase is checked in and your boarding has commenced, or your boot is packed and you’re on the road. There are a couple of things to be wary of when settling in…

Neck posture

Newer planes are sometimes fitted with device holders on the back of each seat, to firmly secure your device and position it so you have a comfortable viewing experience. These are real lifesavers for preventing pesky neck pain! They are usually placed directly above the tray table, so that your line of sight is perpendicular to the device, limiting neck strain. Simply place your tablet or device in the holder and sit back and relax while you watch your favourite show!

However, if you’re on a plane that doesn’t have this convenient feature, make sure you use a stand of some sort, and take regular breaks to go for a walk and stretch your neck and back. Or if you’re holding your tablet, place your elbows on the tray table for support. You may be dying to see the latest movie releases, but the last thing we want is for your neck to be curled forward as you strain to watch on your low screen.

When travelling in a car, you can get some nifty back-of-the-seat tablet holders for the kids, so their necks are protected too!

Restless legs

Sitting in a cramped plane or car for long periods of time is certainly not a comfortable experience. If you are an active person, your body won’t be used to it and your legs may start to feel restless. Don’t fret - in many cases this is normal, and the Australian Chiropractors Association (ACA) suggests useful tips for minimising this.

Snagging an aisle seat in the plane will allow you to stretch your legs more freely. You’ll also be able to take a stroll to the loo without awkwardly stepping over the seats beside you. The ACA also suggests stretching every 1-2 hours, especially after sleeping. And in cars, plan stops into your journey to stretch those legs (and let the kids run wild). Stretches such as rolling the ankles, flexing and pointing the feet can help to stretch lower leg muscles and prevent restless legs. Finally, check out the ACA’s very own app, which will help to stretch that strained neck, fatigued back or stiff legs after an uncomfortable (or long!) plane or car trip.


Holidays are meant to de-stress us, however statistics show us that they can actually elevate stress levels. The most common reasons for this are coping with financial and time constraints. As we know by now, the body holds onto stress in various ways. This stress may cause pain, and in some cases may aggravate existing injury. Harvard Medical School suggests keeping holiday goals realistic, so planning and organising ahead of time can help limit stress. However, if you feel your body has held onto this stress, give the clinic a call to book an appointment. We will be closed from the 23rd of December until the 6th of January over the holiday period, so make sure to book in before or after that time.

Travelling can be taxing on the body, but it doesn’t have to be! We hope you can take on board (get it?) these simple tips for a pain free travelling experience. Here at Mark O’Brien Chiropractic we wish you the safest of travels and keenly await your return!

Safe Christmas break everyone, we hope you have a wonderful time full of rest, family and friends.

1. Harvard Medical School (2018). Holiday Stress and The Brain. Retrieved from https://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain

2. Australian Chiropractor’s Association (2019) Travel Tips for the Holidays. Retrieved from https://chiropractors.asn.au/component/k2/item/137-travel-tips-for-the-holidays

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