Avoiding Back Pain While Travelling

traveling with back pain

Asking for help can save you from back pain while travelling.

When travelling, spinal stenosis can be a real pain in… well, you know. So, if you suffer from pinched nerves, sciatica, or other form of spinal stenosis, what can you do to make it a little easier to zip around the country visiting relatives or going on vacation? Here are five top tips on beating back pain while travelling.

1. Pack light

It might sound silly but really scrutinizing everything you put in that case and carry-on can make a massive difference to the amount of weight you’re lugging around and the strain on your spine. Even if your case has wheels you’ll still be lifting and swinging it on and off luggage carousels and trolleys so get yourself an eReader instead of those dozen paperbacks, and buy travel size toiletries once you arrive instead of taking them with you.


2. Pack painkillers

You know you’re going to need them so pack them in your carry on now. Make sure they’re still sealed and accompanied by any relevant prescription or doctor’s note as you don’t want customs confiscating your pain meds and leaving you in agony for your trip. Taking pain medication prior to getting on a plane or coach may help improve the chances of you having a restful journey and arriving full of energy and vigour. Sitting in pain for hours will leave you more tense and cranky and isn’t the best way to start a vacation.

3. Stretch

Impromptu aisle yoga is all the rage, don’t you know. Everyone knows they’re supposed to stretch while on a long journey so be a leader, a visionary, an inspiration and get up out of your seat to pull some yoga moves and keep those limbs limber. There’s usually a little extra room for side-stretches and such in the vestibules near washrooms and, if you’re on a coach or train then take advantage of those smokers’ breaks to get some sunlight and stretch out a bit more easily (just don’t smoke!).


4. Prioritize

When you only have a week in a place, or a few days or hours, it can be tempting to pack in as many sites as possible. Sometimes, back pain from spinal stenosis just gets ignored until it suddenly screams at you to stop. Pay attention to your pain levels and other symptoms such as fatigue, sleeplessness, and weakness. This is your body telling you that, yes, you can go and see that famous statue but, no, you probably don’t want to climb that tower for the best view over the city. Take the elevator, or enjoy a rest in some perfectly manicured gardens in the sun.

Oh, and make sure your shoes aren’t the real cause of your back pain after wandering around sightseeing all day.

5. Learn how to ask for help

Before we get all psych 101 on you, let’s just say that one literal interpretation of this is to actually learn the French, Spanish, Chinese, Swahili etc. for ‘excuse me, can you help me please?’ so that you’re not stranded like a bad mime if you need someone to grab your bag, help you into a taxi, or lift your luggage into the overhead compartment.

On a more subtle level, this top tip for travelling with back pain really is a simple reminder that hoping your chronic illness magically disappears while you’re on holiday doesn’t actually make it so. Get used to not being able to do everything yourself and learn to ask for help of those travelling with you or who are fellow passengers or customer service personnel. Remember, you are not a burden and practically everyone you ask for help will be more than happy to oblige. If you don’t look visibly sick or in pain then it’s unlikely anyone will know to offer help unless you ask.

Chronic back pain needn’t mean never travelling again. Instead, just spend a little time thinking about the kinds of problems you may encounter when travelling with spinal stenosis and you’ll soon figure out how to overcome those issues and have a great vacation.

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