After working with many different bodies over the years, one theme I’ve noticed is that the body doesn’t fare so well when we travel. Whether that is back pain, neck and shoulder pain or sluggish digestion, we seem to suffer from at least one, if not all, of those issues when we travel.
Low back pain is usually brought on by sitting for an extended length of time. Whether you are flying or driving, usually a lot of sitting is involved. Have you heard sitting is the new smoking? It’s so true! The lack of ergonomics in both car and airplane seats is a big problem. Usually there is no lumbar support. In order to combat this issue, I travel with a light jacket or towel that I can roll up and place in my lumbar spine. When the lumbar spine is in a more neutral position (versus too much extension or flexion), there is less pressure on the disk and the musculature can relax. I also try to stand and stretch as much as possible.
Neck and shoulder pain come largely from the heavy bags we carry while traveling. Because of the airplane bag restrictions, we tend to over fill our carry-on bags. Seriously, I paid $100 to check a bag the last time I travelled, and then, on top of that, the airline LOST the bag!! Back to neck and shoulder pain… When we put an extra heavy shoulder strap across our shoulder or drag a heavy roller bag, we are compromising the structure of the shoulder. We often end up contracting the upper trapezius muscle (muscle that runs from the spine towards the top of the shoulder) so the bag doesn’t fall off our shoulder, which leads to neck strain and headaches. Or the humerus (upper arm bone) can also be pulled out of alignment by dragging a heavy bag. What I’ve found to be the easiest solution is to use a roller bag with 4 wheels so I can push my bags versus dragging my bags. I also check as many things as possible…hence the $100 charge!? I also travel with a small lacrosse or tennis ball stuffed inside a tube sock. This is small and easy to carry with me whether I’m traveling by plane or car. Okay, I know you get where I’m going with the ball (trigger point release), but the tube sock? I put the ball inside the tube sock so I can throw the ball over my shoulder and roll out my tight muscles. This way I have control of the ball, and it isn’t constantly falling out, and I am able to do release work against a wall or chair.
And then there’s the infamous sluggish digestion. We’ve all experienced it. When traveling, we tend to eat different foods, in different amounts, and at different times of the day than we’re used to. Also, we’re probably not as hydrated as normal. (All the recycled air in an airplane is killer on hydration.) One technique I have found extremely useful to combat digestion issues is the Mayan Abdominal Massage. I normally do this abdominal massage several times a week, but when I’m travelling I do it at least once a day. Here’s how:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent. Think of your stomach area as a clock with 12:00 being closer to your sternum and 6:00 being closer to your pubic bone. Take both hands and gently brush the area starting at 6:00 moving upwards toward the navel. This should be a mild even stroke. Do this 3 times, always starting at the pubic bone and moving up to the naval.
- Next do 3 strokes moving from the area between 7:00 and 8:00 in towards the naval. After you have finished these, do 3 more moving from the area between 4:00 and 5:00 in towards the naval. Now repeat these strokes again, 3 times in all three positions two more times.
- Next move to the top of the gut area. You need to do the 3 stroke massage from 12:00 to the naval. Then move to the area between 10:00 and 11:00. Massage from this are towards the naval 3 times. Next massage from between 1:00 and 2:00 towards the naval 3 times. Repeat these 3 strokes two more times.
- Next massage each number of the clock individually. Put your finger tips on each number, starting at 12:00 and moving towards 1:00, and do 3 tiny circles in a clockwise direction, then move to the next number until you have made your way around the clock.
- Finish by massaging in a continuous circle, without lifting your hands. Start at 12:00 and circle the gut first with a large circle that gradually moves in towards a smaller circle at the naval. Repeat without lifting your hands and gradually increase the size of the circle back to circling around the clock numbers again.
I have seen this massage done many different ways but all are done with a medium touch moving in a clockwise direction.
Hopefully, the next time you travel you are a little more prepared for the travel body ailments. Bring your towel, ball in a tube sock, and your massage hands and give your body a little extra TLC. Bon Voyage!