Managing Back Pain While On A Vacation

Millions of Americans suffer from either acute or chronic back pain. It is something most of us experience at some point in our lives.

Back pain limits your mobility and affects the overall quality of life. You find it harder to perform certain activities you do with ease and even your job suffers. But that is not the end of back pain-related frustrations; it also affects your vacation, making it harder for you to relax and unwind.


Bearing in mind that all of us need a break from time to time, this post will help you manage back pain while on a vacation. As a practicing Chicago orthopedic doctor, I have many patients that contact me on vacation trying to manage pain instead of enjoying their time away, so I have decided to write this guide on managing back pain while away from home.

5 Ways To Enjoy A Pain-Free Vacation

1. Get Comfortable

Managing back pain while on vacation is not only about having a great time at your destination, it involves travel too. In fact, your travel can make or break the entire vacation. If you find it stressful or painful, the chances are high you will be in the terrible mood for the rest of your trip. That is why you should get comfortable first.


Start With Your Clothes

There is no need to dress up regardless of your transportation, car, train, bus, or plane. It is always better to opt for comfortable and roomy clothes that allow you to move easily.

Avoid Stuffing Your Back Pocket

Avoid having your wallet, phone, or anything else in the back pocket. First of all, someone can easily steal it from you, also, having stuff in the back pocket can throw your spine out of alignment and only produce more pain.


Avoid Reaching For The Steering Wheel

If you are driving, you should avoid reaching for the steering wheel because this action puts more stress on the neck, lumbar spine, shoulders, and your wrists at the same time. To avoid this, you should sit close to the steering wheel without putting your safety in jeopardy, of course.

Watch Out Your Seating Position

When sitting in your seat, regardless of the type of transportation, you should sit up straight with knees slightly higher than hips and ensure chin is pulled in. That way, your head will sit straight on top of the spine. As a result, there would not be added pressure to the affected area, and your back pain will minimize.


Check Your Back Alignment

At the same time, your back should be aligned against the back of the seat. If that is making you uncomfortable, you should purchase specialized cushions or pillows before your trip. They will provide additional support without making you feel awkward.

You Should Also

  • Look for seats with extra legroom, if traveling by commercial transport.
  • Pack lightly; you do not really need too much luggage and carrying heavy bags can induce back pain.
  • Walk and stretch as much as you can during your trip.

2. Get Up And Move

To most of us, vacation is the perfect opportunity to do nothing at all. You just want to be lazy and enjoy the view. But, do not forget to be active. Prolonged inactivity can stiffen the muscles and joints, making it harder for you to move, and as a result, you feel the pain that ruins your vacation.


If traveling by car, you should make frequent stops to get out and take a short walk or do some stretch exercises. Plan these stops a few weeks or days before the vacation. When you finally arrive at your destination point, you should avoid being lazy.

Take this opportunity to walk around the area, explore; you can even do some exercises there as well. Research the location and look for interesting places and things you could visit. Instead of taking a taxi for a shorter distance, walk.


3. Take Cold/Hot Pack

Hot and cold therapies are considered highly effective self-treatment options for back pain. People who suffer from back pain should not forget to pack hot and cold packs (or cold gels) before they set off. Fortunately, they are affordable, and you can find them just about anywhere. Make sure you pack them in a carry-on and keep them close.

  • When you feel your back is stiff and it would be difficult for you to move without pain later, apply hot pack on the affected area.
  • On the other hand, if you are feeling pain, apply a cold pack or rub a little bit of cold gel on the painful area and you will feel better.

4. Do Not Focus On Back Pain

You have probably heard about this quite a lot, but it really works. When you are focused on the pain, you feel the intensity increases. On the other hand, shifting your focus to something else helps you “forget” about the pain.


There are many ways you can focus on something else. For example: Read a book, listen to music, watch a movie, do crosswords or Sudoku, chat with fellow passengers or family members.

5. Take Some Rest

Although it is important to stay active throughout your vacation, you should still get some rest. Ideally, you should find a balance between rest and activity. Why? It is because if you push yourself to be up and about at all times, your back will suffer.

It would be practical if you planned periods of activity and rest before your travel. Create a thorough schedule that you can follow and have a pain-free experience that you deserve.

Other Tips For Traveling With A Bad Back

Besides useful tips mentioned above, here are some other tricks you should do to manage or avoid back pain on vacation:

  • Upgrade to aisle seat on the plane so you can get up and move easily from time to time.
  • Focus on your posture.
  • Use rolling luggage, so you do not have to carry your stuff.
  • Do not forget to take your over-the-counter medications.
  • If using prescription pills, call your doctor or a pharmacist for a refill before leaving.
  • Contact your hotel and ask about mattress they have, make sure they have supportive mattresses that would not cause back pain.
  • Control your alcohol intake.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • See if your hotel has yoga, pilates, or other low-impact activity classes you can attend while there.

Back pain is frustrating, but you should not let it ruin your much-deserved vacation. There are many things you can do to stay comfortable and prevent or manage back pain. The key is to prepare your trip ahead and take your back pain problem into consideration, move more, and pay attention to your posture.