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Got Pain on the Plane?

Posted by CLAUDIA RIMOLI on

Traveling can be tough for all kinds of reasons. Long lines. Delayed flights. Interacting with a bunch of strangers. Lost bags.

But it can also be tough because sitting on the plane can cause neck and back pain unless you are conscious about preventing it. In fact, 90% of travelers report neck and back pain on the plane.

Ouch.

Pack Light

Who wants to pay all those extra fees for checked baggage anyway? Get a regulation-size carry-on with wheels and skip everything else.

A lot of your back pain isn't starting in the plane. It's starting at drop-off, as you lug giant bags and purses towards the check-out counter. And sooner or later, you're going to have to pick them up again.

While you're at it, find a lightweight purse or backpack which distributes weight evenly. I like a Multipurpose Backpack. In fact, it's seriously so well-designed I once packed clothes and toiletries for an entire week's trip, while including phone, Kindle, and chrome book with all chargers, plus my wallet. I had to do laundry once while on the road, but it was freeing and easy.

If you're not quite at my level of minimalism it makes a great travel purse too. (Hint: if you're flying Spirit this thing is the exact size of their less-than-generous carry-on limits).

If you're using a normal airline, a regular carry-on will do. Think you can't live without loads of stuff? See how veteran travelers manage it all the time.

TL:DR? Make sure all the colors in your bag go together, bring exactly one pair of jeans (on your body, at the airport) because jeans are bulky, and favor slacks, skirts, shorts or canvas pants. Have a couple of outer shirts for layering. Make sure your shoes are good no matter where you want to take them, and bring them on your feet.


A good pair of boots can go with almost anything. And if you've absolutely got to have a pair of shoes that kills on the fashion front, standard carry-ons do have the room if you are careful about everything else.

Support The Lumbar Spine

Improper lower back support is one of the major reasons why people get uncomfortable on the plane. The seats just weren't designed to be particularly ergonomic.

If you have a Soothie you can strap it into place to get exactly what you need where you need it. If not, you can roll up a small blanket. Place it behind you and lean back until you're seated comfortably.

If You're Going to Nap, Get Proper Neck Support

Speaking of improper support, planes weren't really meant for napping, either. But if your flight's super long there's no getting around needing some sleep.

Theoretically those chairs recline, but then you're sentencing someone else to a long, uncomfortable trip while your seat slowly crushes both that person's legs and his or her will to live.

You need something specially designed for sleeping while sitting up. Here are a few travel pillow options worth checking out. Soothie works here too, but if you've got to choose because you only have one, use Soothie for the lumbar support and use a travel pillow for your neck.

Use Hot & Cold Therapy to Relieve Pain In Transit

Chiropractors will tell you to alternate between heat and ice if your back and neck pain gets too crazy on the plane. Your freezer pack will last for 6 hours, so charge it up and slip it in place before you leave home.

Need the hot pack? See if a flight attendant will warm it in the microwave for you, or better yet slip into an airline convenience store to warm it up before boarding.

Having both will help if the plane starts to turn super cold or super hot, which it always seems to do whenever I travel.

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Is Your Pillow a Pain in the Neck?

Posted by CLAUDIA RIMOLI on

If you've got neck pain your pillow could be the primary culprit. Many people sleep on pillows that are too high, too low, too stiff, or too soft.

The wrong pillow can strain your muscles, compress your nerves, and wear out your joints. That's no way to start the day, so follow these pillow-picking principles to find the bedtime support that's right for you.

Conformity Called For

Conforming to the norm may not be great for humans, but it's exactly what we want our pillows to do. Harvard Health suggests using either a memory foam pillow or a feather pillow to make sure the pillow conforms to the shape of your head and neck each night.

Another option may be to get a high-quality water pillow.

By conforming to the shape of your head and your neck you ensure your neck muscles don't have to work all night long to keep your head in a comfortable position.

Hard or Soft?

It depends on how you sleep.

If you sleep on your stomach experts recommend a soft pillow. You're not putting as much weight on your neck that way, and you want something that you can position for breathing.

But if you sleep on your side or your back, a firm pillow is what you'll want.

What if you toss, turn, and change positions throughout the night? In that case, you'll want an ergonomic, concave pillow with plenty of support. Try searching for pillows made exclusively for combination sleepers when you go looking.

The Mattress Matters, Too

If fixing your pillow doesn't fix your neck pain you might turn your attention to your mattress, next. According to Consumer Reports, your best bet may be an adjustable mattress like a Sleep Number, which lets you switch up the firmness of the mattress as well as the position. Through trial and error you should be able to find the firmness that's right for you.

If a Sleep Number mattress is outside of your budget, Consumer Reports recommends going to a firmer mattress, instead. Again, support is the name of the game.

Still no relief?

If you've changed up your sleeping habits and still can't get your back and neck pain to stop, it may be time to consult a chiropractor. If your neck is already out of alignment your pillow and mattress might not matter much. Get an adjustment, follow your chiropractor's instructions about additional therapies, and try again.

You might just find the combination of prevention and cure is enough to give you way more pain-free days.
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When The Daily Commute is a Pain in the Everything

Posted by CLAUDIA RIMOLI on

Nobody loves their morning commute. Or their afternoon commute. And while it would be nice to think we could all pick up, move, and end up closer to work, that's not always the case.

Being a road warrior has impacts on mental health and happiness. You didn't need scientists to tell you that. What you might not have realized is it can also have a substantial impact on the health of your back, neck, and knees.

You can't exactly start teleporting to your job either, so here are a few tips for dealing with the daily commute.

Exercise to mitigate back and neck pain.

Prolonged periods of sitting, especially in an unnatural position, are two of the drivers (no pun intended) of commuting pain. Certain muscles tighten up and shorten while others lose strength.

"Sitting is the new smoking," but most of us can't do much about having to do it. What you can do is make it a point to do some strengthening and stretching exercises every day so you can give your muscles what they need to stay strong.

Address your driving posture.

We've all done the rapid-fire seat adjustment after the taller or shorter family member has used the car before us. But how much thought do you actually give to your seat position?

Once you've got the seat close enough for you to comfortably reach the foot pedals, you need to start thinking about seat height. Your hips and knees need to be level. Adjusting the recline of your seat and the steering wheel position until you aren't putting any strain on your body is equally important.

Bring portable comfort.

Soothie's not the type of company that's going to hammer its product every blog post, but in this case it's really worth mentioning. Soothie can give your lower back the support it just doesn't get in any natural vehicle seat.

Add the hot or cold comfort to ease painful muscles and you might just have a more bearable commute. Which means a more bearable work day, because you won't be in such a foul mood after your commute.

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