Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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You've looked forward to it all year … researched, planned and anticipated. It's finally here—vacation time!
And you're determined not to let anything ruin it.
Unfortunately, no matter how meticulously you plan, there are a lot of things that can derail a vacation. Some are simply out of your control—like delayed flights, lost luggage and perhaps the most infamous of all—the weather.
Fortunately, you can control one of the worst travel "disasters"—and that's spending your vacation in pain. I'm going to give you great ways to avoid pain in the first place, so your vacation can be as perfect as humanly possible.
Because after all, a pain-free traveler is a happy traveler.
Travel wreaks havoc on your body. First, there's the stress of just getting there—getting to the airport, getting through the airport, standing in endless lines to get through security. And that's all before you even board the plane! Let's not forget the less-than-spacious seating on most flights today or that person in front of you (you know who you are) who reclines their seat and makes your legroom virtually nonexistent (you've no doubt had a choice word or two for them).
And even if you're traveling by car, bus or train, sitting in traffic and sitting for long periods can stress your body to a point of pain, stiffness and fatigue.
When I travel, I always pack an over-the-counter pain reliever, having been the victim of that dreaded pain-while-on-vacation syndrome on too many occasions. (I'd also pack my own personal massage therapist if I could!)
The Challenge: Sitting for a long time can make your legs cramp and your back stiffen. Not only that, but a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that prolonged sitting is associated with negative health outcomes and mortality. Everyone should reduce the amount of time they spend sitting, experts concur.
The Solution: Rather than sitting at the gate waiting to board your flight, walk around the airport terminal. Once airborne, get up at least once each hour and walk and stretch (if room allows). Stretching and walking help boost blood flow and loosen tight muscles.
Plan regular breaks to get out and walk around and stretch during long car trips. (An added bonus is that you can stop along scenic routes and take in the setting that you might have otherwise missed.)
The Challenge: Cramped airline seats. What's more unpleasant about flying than cramming your body into a tiny seat? Not much. Seats range from a high of about 34 inches of legroom to a low of 28; seat widths hover around 17.2 to 18 inches. Hardly sufficient.
The Solution: To get more space you may have to pay more. But you can also explore other tactics, such as checking SeatGuru.com, which shows the specific plane and the amount of legroom it offers. Or, see if you can sit in the bulkhead section (the first row of economy class) or the exit row, which typically have more legroom. An aisle seat may allow you to stretch your legs a bit more, too.
The Challenge: Seats in a car or plane don't necessarily conform to your body and can cause neck and back pain.
The Solution: Bring along some props. Support your lower back with a rolled blanket (or if you're traveling with a jacket or sweater, use that). A neck pillow can help keep your head and neck in a neutral position. Inflatable neck pillows are perfect for traveling.
The Challenge: While on vacation, you want to be active and try things you don't always get a chance to do. Windsurfing! Golf! Water skiing! The possibilities are endless.
The Solution: Know your body and its limitations. Pace yourself. While this might be the only time you get to try out a new sport, you have to be realistic and be aware of activities that might stress certain parts of your body that may not be up for the challenge. Jumping in too quickly—or for too long—can result in injury. Tip: You're much less likely to get injured if you warm up beforehand and slowly build your pace and intensity.
The Challenge: Lifting or carrying a heavy suitcase. Whether it is into the trunk of your car or an overhead bin of a plane, you're at risk for pulling or straining muscles in your neck, back or other parts of your body.
The Solution: Move slowly and strategically. Break the action into smaller parts. For instance, if you're lifting your bag into an overhead bin, first place it on the top of the seat, then into the bin. Don't use back muscles to lift; instead, bend at the knees and use your leg muscles. Avoid twisting when lifting.
When carrying heavy items, hold them as close to your body as possible, switch sides often to avoid stressing just one side or distribute the weight evenly on each side of your body.
May your next vacation be everything you want it to be—plus hassle-free and pain-free.
This post is sponsored by Wahl Home Products, but I assure you that opinions are strictly my very own. This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net.