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by Schulte S

How to Prevent and Ease the Aches and Pains of Traveling

IMAGE It is common to have minor aches and pains while traveling. You may spend endless hours sitting or standing. Heavy bags can be hard to haul. Cramped spaces in cars, planes, buses, and trains make it hard to move or stretch. All of these things can take a toll on your body.
A little planning can help make travel less painful.

Types of Pain You May Feel With Travel

  • Aches—Dull pains that often feel better after you start moving and warm up the muscles.
  • Tingling/asleep—Numbness when a nerve is pinched. It should improve when pressure is taken off the nerve.
  • Cold—When muscles are tight and restrict blood flow. Cold muscles are often helped by moving around. This increases blood flow to the cold areas.
  • CrampsSudden contractions in the muscle. Relaxing the muscle by stretching should ease or get rid of cramps.
  • Knots—Happen when muscle fibers do not relax. Massaging the knots and stretching the muscle can help relax the fibers.
  • Spasms— Severe cramps that come and go. Stretching should help ease spasms.

Prevention Tips

Here are some steps to ease your travel pains.

Decrease the Strain

  • When flying:
    • Travel light—Bring fewer items. Check heavier baggage and/or use a luggage cart. This can ease the strain on your body.
    • Limit work or leave it at home—Working on a laptop or other projects can cause eyestrain, odd body positions, and added stress.
    • Find a comfortable position—Adjust your seat. Use a pillow, blanket, or traveling neck rest.
    • Give yourself space—When possible, put luggage in the overhead bin, check luggage, or leave it in your hotel room.
    • Request an aisle seat—This should give you at least a little extra room to do stretches. You will disturb fewer people when you want to walk around. It will also prevent blood clots in the legs (DVT).
    • Stretch—Stand up and move around whenever possible.
  • When driving:
    • Move your seat—Be sure that your seat is close enough to the steering wheel. When sitting, your knees should be a bit higher than your hips. Sit up straight.
    • Do car exercises—Even though you are driving, you can still move your muscles. Stretch your toes, tighten and relax your leg muscles, or move your shoulders back and forth.
    • Be aware of your grip—Periodically relax your grip. Switch how you are holding the steering wheel.
    • Pull over—Driving can make you tense and tired. Take frequent breaks.

Take Care of Yourself

Make good health choices when traveling:
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Try to eat well and drink plenty of fluids while traveling.
  • Put aside time for relaxation and exercise.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
  • Do not eat fast food. Make healthy and nutritious snacks before traveling.

Treatment Tips

If you have travel-related aches and pains:
  • Rest aching muscles.
  • Do light to moderate exercise.
  • Try heat therapy. Hot showers, heating pads, and hot compresses may help to relax muscles.
  • If advised by your doctor, take over-the-counter pain medicine.
  • Give yourself a mini-massage.

When to Seek Medical Treatment

Most travel aches and pain will go away on their own. Seek treatment if you have:
  • Severe aches that do not go away
  • Muscle aches with:
    • Fever, headache, or sore throat
    • Rash, redness, or swelling
    • Belly pain, weight loss, or weakness
  • Pain that moves down your arms or legs
  • Lasting numbing or tingling
  • Signs of a possible blood clot in your leg—such as lower leg swelling, pain, tenderness along the thigh, or warmth

RESOURCES

American Massage Therapy Association
http://www.amtamassage.org
American Physical Therapy Association
http://www.apta.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References

Avoiding aches and pains when traveling. Cleveland University website. Available at: https://www.cleveland.edu/blog-post/~post/avoiding-aches-and-pains-when-traveling-20160819/. Accessed October 25, 2021.
Bon voyage to muscle aches & pains: Expert tips for pain-free travel. World Travelers of America website. Available at: https://worldtravelers.org/travel-health-bon-voyage.asp. Accessed October 25, 2021.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/deep-vein-thrombosis-dvt. Accessed October 25, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board
  • Review Date: 10/2021
  • Update Date: 10/25/2021