Imagine the panic. You’re taking a well-deserved rest away on holiday. The sun is beating down and that makes your crisp, cold drink taste all the better.
Then, seemingly out the blue, your back goes. No! You’re in a foreign country, not sure how to get the care you need, but most importantly, the pain takes the enjoyment out the holiday.
At this time of year, I hear this story a lot in the clinic. But fear not, trusty reader, I will give you a few tips to prevent the dreaded woes of holiday back pain. By following these tips, you should keep the pain away and make the most of your time off.
Remember, most sun loungers are designed to stack well, not to look after your back. I have rarely found a well-designed lounger which offers the correct support.
The other major problem with sunbathing is that it is so abnormal for us to lay down for that amount of time during the day! We often think pain is caused by DOING something, but very commonly I see injury caused by NOT DOING.
The extra rest we take on holiday can actually do us harm. Get up, walk and stretch regularly.
Wearing flip-flops can tighten the plantar fascia (the connective tissue under our feet) and lead to tight calves, hamstrings and hips (we call this the ‘posterior chain’).
This lack of flexibility through the posterior chain can leave your back vulnerable to injury. People with tight posterior chains often have their back ‘go’ with seemingly innocuous movements, like bending down to brush their teeth or pick a small object up from the floor.
It confuses them because it seems such a simple movement when actually, their back has been overloaded by the lack of flexibility in the legs and hips.
It’s super important to stay hydrated in hot countries, especially if there are a few extra alcoholic drinks thrown into the mix.
Being dehydrated can reduce tissue health and leave us prone to injury.
Sudden increases in activity
If lounging around the pool isn’t your thing and you prefer to trek up mountains and take in the views, make sure you do some training beforehand.
I’ve said many times that it is ‘contrast’ that is the biggest cause of pain. If you have been busy in the office and haven’t had time to train, then you go ploughing up mountains your body probably won’t thank you.
What to do if you are in pain?
If the worst happens and you do end up injured on holiday, my advice is always the same.
Try to move little and often. We follow the “Goldilocks Rule”. Move too little, you will tighten up. Move too much, it can make the pain worse.
A simple rule of thumb is that if you are injured you should break your day into twenty-minute chunks. After sitting for twenty minutes, get up, move, walk, give your hips a little wiggle and stretch. After twenty minutes of that, put your feet up by the pool again.
The latest research is saying that it is helpful to use an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time every couple of hours, but only in the first day after the injury. After the first 24 hours, use heat and stay mobile.
And of course, when you get back on home turf, get booked in with your local osteopath to get you on the mend and ready to face normality. Or, if you are feeling tight before you go, prevention is always better than cure and a treatment or two can help you make the most of your well-earned rest.
As always, we at Forté Physical Health are here to help and you can get in touch at [email protected] or call 01245 522 360. And if you want ideas for flexibility exercises, click these links to our Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Have a healthy month!
See our back pain page for more information.