Traveling and keeping your health and sanity intact


Common annoyances like bad food and cramped quarters are simply a fact of travel, whether you’re going by air or land. But you can keep them to a minimum and arrive at your destination with your health and sanity intact. Here’s how:

On a plane

1) Distribute your luggage between two smaller suitcases instead of one large bag, says

Edward N. Hanley Jr., MD, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC. This will help you balance the weight while carrying your bags through the airport. Better yet, wheel your luggage.

2) When stowing your carry-on luggage, stand straight and away from the overhead compartment, suggests the American Chiropractic Association. Whenever possible, place heavier bags under the seat in front of you to avoid having to lift them over your head.

3) Before you buckle up, place a small airplane pillow or an inflatable lumbar support in the gap between your lower back and the seat. This will counteract the tendency to slump and decrease the risk of in-flight back pain.

4) Don’t cross your legs. It shortens the leg muscles, reduces circulation, and creates an uneven weight on the hips and pelvis, which can cause lower-back pain.

5) Say no to the greasy muffin or mystery meat enchilada. Instead, pack fruit, a whole wheat bagel, or other healthy treats. Or buy some fruit and yogurt or a smoothie at the airport before you board the plane. That way, you’re covered if you don’t like what they’re serving.

In the car

6) Pack an ice chest with small, nutritious snacks such as baby carrots, fruit, peanut butter on whole wheat bread, and yogurt. Throw in some bottled water, orange juice, or 1% milk.

7) If fast food is your only option, stay away from fried items and fatty accompaniments such as mayo and oily dressings. Grilled chicken sandwiches are okay if you ask to hold the mayo. Ordering a salad? Go easy on the dressing, or order a light dressing.

8) Before getting into the car, take a short walk to loosen your leg muscles, and be sure to stretch, advises the American Chiropractic Association. Long trips should be treated like an athletic event.

9) Use a back support. The widest part of the lumbar support pillow should be between the bottom of your rib cage and your waist. You can find a wide variety of back supports designed for car use in stores and online.

10) Tilt your rearview mirror up a little bit. This will help your posture by making you sit up straighter to see out the back window. You should still be able to see clearly out the back.