- WATER: Drink a few ounces every hour and avoid caffeine. Water hydrates you, especially your muscles which are approximately 60% water. Keeping your muscles hydrated will decrease stiffness and spasms. This is especially important when flying, because the pressurization in a plane tends to be very drying.
- EXERCISE: When driving, try to get out of the car to walk around and stretch every hour for as little as two minutes. Go to a rest stop or parking lot and walk around your car, use the rest room or do a few leg and chest stretches. If flying, get up and stand in the aisle every hour. You can also perform some exercises while confined to your seat. Seated pelvic tilts, leg lifts, chest stretches, shoulder blade retraction and range of motion of your ankles are not only helpful for your back, but they also decrease the chance of forming blood clots while sitting too long. If you have a history of clots or are over 50 years of age, be sure to wear compression hose or supportive stockings. This will also help to keep the blood from pooling at your feet and ankles, thereby decreasing the possibility of clotting. For those with a history of back problems, lay over flights may be a better option, forcing you to get up and move around more frequently.
- SUPPLIES: Keep a large zip lock freezer bag to add ice to while at the airport or a drive through. This tends to be especially helpful to prevent flare ups or in the event that you feel a twinge while packing the car of lifting your carry on. Sitting with the ice pack behind your back for 10 minutes every half hour, can greatly diminish inflammation and swelling. Patients tend to prefer the feeling of heat on their back, however I strongly recommend ice over heat. Heat increases blood flow which can increase inflammation and swelling. It is also very dehydrating which leads to tightness and spasms. Although they might keep you warm in the winter months, keep the seat warmers off while traveling. If you have a history of back problems, consider traveling with a TENS unit. This portable, hand held, “electric stimulation” machine, runs on a battery and is applied with stickers to the area of pain. It is allowed through airport security in checked luggage. Do not use while driving unless you are the passenger. If you move around too much, the stickers can become unstuck, causing a shock with driving. We sell high quality, dual lead units that can be purchased through your flex spending and insurance reimbursement funds. Lumbar braces are also extremely helpful to prevent flare ups while packing the car or carrying luggage.
- MEDICATION: If all else fails and you end up with a twinge, have anti-inflammatory medication handy. Over the counter ibuprofen or Aleve are the most common medications. Natural options are terrific for both prevention and treatment. I suggest cold water fish oil at 2,000-4,000 mg per day (Metagenics and Standard Process are my favorites for quality and strength). Boswellia is a great herbal option for immediate relief. Consider using foods such as lemons, garlic, ginger, curcumin and turmeric. They have natural anti-inflammatory properties to assist with inflammation as well.