School is almost out, the sun is shining, and the weekend weather forecast just became so much more important.  It can only mean one thing. Summer is finally here! With this great season comes many popular events like vacation and travel plans, backyard BBQ’s, beach, pool, park and lake openings, fun filled holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day, and festivals with seasonal food and thrilling rides.  It is the perfect time of year to take advantage of all that the outdoors have to offer. However, with activity that we do not do often, sometimes comes unexpected pain or strain. When you pack for your trip, make sure to put these 5 tips in your bag.

  • Practice proper posture. Most of the time improper posture comes from muscle weakness and or fatigue.  Being mindful of your posture is the first step to actually having good posture.

Tip: Exercises like blade squeezes, pelvic tilts (in a sitting, standing, or supine position), chin tucks, and shoulder shrugs can all help keep the cervical and lumbar spine aligned.

It is OK to reset these muscles as many times as you need.  Use the commercial time on your TV program, the song change on your radio station, or the next stop on your commute as a guide to think about what your head, neck, and lower back are doing. Reset, reset, reset!  If you are sitting and your seat allows, use the headrest. Try not to lean the body forward and make sure your hips are not higher than your knees when you sit.

  • Support your lower back. Beach chairs, stadium seats, long car or plane rides and mattresses that are not customized for you can really stress out the lower back.  You want to make sure you support the natural curve in the spine. Don’t be afraid to use a lumbar support device. A doctor or Physical Therapist can help decide which one is best for you.  You can also do your research and purchase one on your own.

Tip:  Roll a beach towel 3-4 inches thick and place it along the lower back just above the beltline.  The towel will act as your lumbar support and not allow the lumbar spine to sag into the backrest of the chair and cause unnecessary pressure on the discs in the spine.

  • Don’t stay in one position for too long. Try and get up and move around or change positions every half hour, when possible.  If you are driving, try to split the drive or share some of the driving responsibility. Take advantage of walking at rest stops.  Walking even just for a few minutes helps increase circulation which distributes nutrients into the blood and helps prevent stiffness.

Tip: When going from a sit to stand position, place your hands on your hips and gently tilt the body backward.  Hold this position for 5-10 seconds and repeat 3 times. This exercise allows the spine to extend and help to avoid strain on muscles after being in a sitting position.  Always make sure you have proper grounding on your feet before going into the stretch.

  • Try new things and have fun doing them. Vacation is the perfect time to try something new that you probably don’t have time for in everyday living.  Many vacation spots offer beach yoga, canoeing, hiking, golf, water skiing, etc. Know your limitations and what your body can handle. If you are inexperienced in whatever activity you chose, avoid high impact.  Start slow and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Tip: Stretching before and after activity will lessen your chance on becoming injured.  Set aside an extra 10-15 minutes for a warm up and cool down. It is important to make sure you use your abdominal muscles and keep the hamstring and calf muscles loose with exercise.

  • Pack light. Lifting or carrying a heavy suitcase puts you at risk to strain muscles in the neck, back, and other areas of the body.  Pack strategically. When you can, split things into multiple bags rather than cramming into one large bag. Test your suitcase before the actual day you travel to make sure it is the right one for you.  Do your best to distribute weight evenly throughout the bag.

Tip: Your suitcase (even one on wheels) or backpack should never be more then 10-20% of your body weight.  When lifting overhead, make sure to go into a mini squat position, bending the knees (not to pass the toes) putting the weight through your heels.  Keep the spine upright and avoid twisting. Think of the bag as someone you are dancing with and allow the body to move with the bag vs the bag move away from the body.

One last thing to remember!  We are never more than a phone call or an email away.  Do not hesitate to ask a question. We are happy to help!

Ascend Physical Therapy – 119 Grove Street Montclair, NJ 07042 –