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How to avoid back trouble while travelling
Simple precautions and exercises can prevent and control backaches during travel, says Bharat Savur.

Farida was walking to work, when suddenly a searing pain struck her in her lower back. Next minute, she was bent double on a deserted pavement in Toronto, perspiring in the below-zero temperature. Fortunately, a lone passer-by helped her reach her office. While she was swallowing pills prescribed by her doctor, what troubled Farida was that she had a hectic travel itinerary scheduled next month. Would she make it? She did.Believe it or not, there is plenty of room for optimism about back trouble. So, if you are in a travelling job and have a back problem, there is no need to panic.

Here is how you can beat it:Self-help: In most cases, say health experts, you do not need to rush to your doctor. For the first two days, apply an ice pack, follow it up with a hot shower and take a painkiller. Resume your normal activities at the earliest, including exercising carefully and gingerly. If there is no improvement after a week, consult your doctor. However, other symptoms such as loss of sensation in your legs, accompanying fever and low bladder-control would require immediate medical attention.Lighten and balance your luggage: Don not carry more than 10 kg.

The best thing for your back is the backpack, which can be slung over both shoulders. Or, invest in suitcases with wheels and push instead of pull. Always distribute your luggage in two smaller suitcases instead of one big one to ensure that there is no drag on one side. That puts a symmetrical strain on your spine.Lift wisely: Never lift heavy bags early in the morning. If you must, limber your back by doing gentle, stretching exercises for five minutes. Standing with feet apart, stretch both arms upwards towards the ceiling as if you are reaching for the fan. That releases the fluid pooled in your discs and makes your back more flexible. Next, position your two suitcases close to your sides, bend both knees, grasp the handles and slowly straighten up.

Maintain a balanced, upright posture. Tip: Try and load your car on the previous night. And, finally, whether on a plane or train, don not hesitate to enlist help in lifting heavy luggage on overhead racks. If possible, stow as much as possible below your seat. During air and rail travel. Carry a tiny cushion to be placed behind your lower back to counteract the pressure put on your lumbar region while sitting. Keep your back pockets empty to further decrease the pressure. Place your briefcase or carry-bag on the floor and rest your feet on it. Elevating your knees above your hips keep your lumbar spine from curving unnaturally outwards. Get up and walk up and down as often as you can - your lumbar region will thank you. If standing is impossible due to cramped space, stretch your arms above your head while sitting shift around in your seat. If your fellow-passenger glares at you for fidgeting, remember it is your back, not his. Explain why you are doing it. Do not cross your legs - it creates an imbalance of load on your hips and pelvis, and leads to pain later.

On the roadCarrying the cushion is even more imperative here, especially if you are the driver. Stop every hour and stretch your legs. Position your rear view mirror a little higher without endangering your rear view. This makes you sit in a more upright posture, which is good for your lower back.And remember, as you began your journey, so you must end it. At your destination, limber up with stretching exercises before unloading your luggage.

Other precautions, Do not . . .
Wear high heels for long journeys.
Smoke. Health workers warn that smoking reduces the blood flow to the spinal discs and causes quicker degeneration.
Go for surgery because one specialist says so. Get at least four more opinions. Removing a disc means you lose one shock absorber.

Do . . .
Lose weight. Excess abdominal fat puts pressure on your back by throwing it out of alignment.
Exercise daily. Aerobic exercising like walking, biking and swimming melt away fat. Abdominal curl-ups strengthen stomach muscles, ease the pressure on your spine and heal it quicker.
Eat non-fat and sugar-free food to keep the excess fat off.

If you still get the occasional nag in your lower back after following all these tips, it could be due to mental stress. Here, the muscles tighten up and hurt. Learn to relax and go with lifes flow. Find ways to ease your tensions. Remember, when your back hurts, it is telling you something is going wrong. Straighten your spine, take action by living a fitness-conscious life-style, and you will find that your back is not your master, but a great travelling companion!
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