Give your body a holiday

How to avoid physical pain and stress during the holiday season

by Emma Hellard, chiropractor

A holiday represents change and that’s why we love them. It’s a change of scenery, pace and lifestyle – a glimpse into another life! What makes holidays exciting can also be the very things that cause you to have new aches and pains as you do things differently. In the holiday season it is good to be aware of your temporary lifestyle shift and allow for the change accordingly.

Research by the BCA found that 48 per cent of holiday makers have experienced back or neck pain on their trip. Sleeping in an unfamiliar bed was cited as the biggest cause, while a fifth of jet-setters pointed to the journey itself as a trigger.

When we are on holiday we tend to do things we don’t do at home – we lie down more, swim, try out new sports, throw ourselves around a beach and climb over rocks, walk on sandy beaches and generally over-indulge. We carry suitcases, children, wind breaks, cool boxes and enough excess baggage to last us for months, let alone a week or two.

This is the holidays and we love them. However to make sure you have the very best time and maximise your time away from work and domesticity, we have put together a checklist to help you avoid adding unnecessary strain to your body.

  1. Hydrate! We say it all the time – drink plenty of water and keep your body hydrated whatever the weather but obviously keep it up throughout the day, especially when temperatures soar.
  2. Balance your load. When carrying anything: suitcases, kids, beach essentials, make sure you are not overdoing it and try to carry a similar weight in both hands. Try using a rucksack as hand luggage rather than a handbag, this will avoid uneven pressure on the shoulders and spine. Adjust the straps of your rucksack to keep it close to your body. Use a lighter suitcase where possible with 4 wheels, it is better to push rather than pull and twist.
  3. Swimming is great exercise. If you are not a regular at the gym, swimming is the perfect holiday choice as it gently exercises the whole body whilst the pool or sea water supports you.
  4. Support your joints. Whilst lying down, enjoying the sun’s rays, it is a good idea to support your neck and the small of your back. Lying down to read or relax is harder work for your body than you might think! Avoid undue pressure on elbows and your back.
  5. Warm up! Another regular chiropractic note is to take time to stretch before doing anything strenuous, including chasing the frisbee on the beach!
  6. Equip yourself. Before setting off on a sight-seeing day, plan ahead and think about what you’ll need for maximum comfort. Comfortable footwear is vital. Flip flops are not always the best option unless they include good support. If you are going to be walking any great distance a more supportive shoe with a back would be better for your feet and therefore improve your posture and reduce the chance of injury. Carry your essentials in a rucksack. Shield your eyes from the sun with a cap or sunglasses and remember to take plenty of breaks from walking if you are out all day.
  7. Set the pace. You might be on holiday with different generations – older and younger members of your party. Adjust the pace accordingly so everyone is happy with the itinerary. It is important for everyone to take regular breaks from activity.
  8. Dancing is just the same as any other exercise. Party until dawn if that is your thing but remember to alternate alcohol with drinks of water, rest when you need to and kick off your high heels! High heels can throw your body out of balance and put your joints in an unnatural position – although they’re fine for short periods of time
  9. Sleep! Holidays are great for taking naps when you wouldn’t usually – like during the afternoon. Siesta like a local!
  10. Find space for yourself. Whoever you are on holiday with, it is unlikely that you are used to spending this much time together! For maximum relaxation, take some time for yourself and avoid any unnecessary confrontations or irritability. Take time out to meditate, practise yoga on the beach, empty your mind of the daily grind and make the most of your holiday.
  11. Move! Don’t forget to move during the day as it is easy (and lovely) to spend several hours lying on a sunbed. Any prolonged inactivity will increase your risk of back pain or injury so it is important to keep moving every 30 minutes or so. Don’t forget to get up and walk around the plane and at the airport also.
  12. Sleep easy. Different matresses and pillows can be a huge cause of back and neck pain whilst on holiday. If you have the space in your suitcase it is normally best to try and take your own pillow with you. If you find the mattress too firm, you can make-shift a topper using blankets or a duvet. If you do have trouble with your neck, rolling up a small towel and putting it in the space between your neck and shoulders can be helpful. Sleeping with a pillow between or under the knees can also take pressure off the low back.

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