Being forced to travel with neck and shoulder pain can be a real...well, pain! Sitting in the same potions for extended periods starts to take its toll as you spend hours in the car, or in a plane. Enough is enough - is there something that can be done to help ease your pain and stiffness, allowing you to travel in comfort? Fortunately for you, we've put together this complete guide on traveling with shoulder and neck pain so you can start feeling better and enjoy your time off with loved ones.
Some of the advice we're going to share is a long-term treatment approach that will address the underlying causes of your pain. This means if you're in the middle of a road trip right now and you're reading this guide on your phone, they won't be the most practical. But we will share a few tips and tricks you can use right now to ease pain, stiffness, and discomfort. We'll cover all this and more today. But first, we're going to talk about why traveling causes neck and shoulder pain to feel so much worse than when you're relaxing at home doing your thing.
Why Does Traveling Trigger Neck and Shoulder Pain?
It's no secret that neck pain, shoulder pain, and even back pain are made worse by long hours in the car, sitting in the airport, or flying across the country. Why is that? Some experts believe that traveling in general, but particularly around the holiday season, can cause anxiety and tenseness in people. This alone is enough to have you rubbing your neck or stretching your shoulders as stiffness sets in. But, the main reason you'll feel back or neck pain while traveling is that you sit in the same position for a prolonged period.
Keeping your muscles in a shortened or lengthened position for too long will cause them to tighten up and become sore. The longer you keep them in this state, the worse your pain will be - and the longer it will last for after you've finished traveling. And if you have a poor posture, to begin with, then traveling will only make your pain that much worse. That's why it is so important to actively improve your posture and take note of it throughout the day while you're traveling. This goes beyond just sitting up straight and keeping your spine aligned. We'll talk more later on about how you can work to improve your posture and keep it in alignment through a long travel day. First, let's talk about some quick fixes you can employ if you're on the road right now and struggling.
How to Alleviate Neck and Shoulder Pain While Traveling
Keep in mind that the advice we're about to share with you is great while you're on the road and can provide rapid relief. But - it isn't going to address the underlying problem at hand. We will explain how you can improve your posture and actively attack the root cause of your neck and/or shoulder pain later on. In the meantime, try out these tips and tricks on your next road trip or plane ride.
Take Breaks As Often As Possible To Stretch
If you're taking a long road trip - anything over an hour or two - it's a good idea to constantly take breaks and get up to stretch. You now know that the main reason you have shoulder and neck stiffness while traveling is the prolonged periods in one position - seated. By pulling over at a rest stop or gas station so everyone can get out and stretch their legs, and move their upper body, you can disrupt this pattern and get the blood flowing to your muscles again. The best way to go about this is to shoot for 15-20 minutes of stretching and walking around for every hour you spend in the car. Sure, this is going to make for a long travel day - but if you're comfortable and pain-free, we feel that it is worth it.
This is a bit tougher if you're on a long flight, but you can still get up a few times on your flight depending on how long it is to walk down to the bathroom and move around a bit. Anything to disrupt that pattern of sitting for too long will do leaps and bounds to loosen up your tight shoulders and neck muscles.
Of course, while you're in your terminal waiting for a long flight, avoid sitting. We know it's tempting to get to your gate and kick your feet up and relax, but you're about to get on the plane and sit for hours - take this opportunity to stand or walk around.
Stay Hydrated Throughout The Day
One of the hardest parts about traveling is keeping up on your nutrition and hydration. You're stuck in a car, usually with just a water bottle - or two if you're lucky. Over the course of a 4-8 hour drive, that little water isn't going to cut it. You need to pack extra water to ensure you get anywhere from a half gallon to one gallon per day. You can kill two birds with one stone by combining tips 1 and 2 here. Stop to get out of your car for a break and find the closest water fountain or convenience store to top off your water supply. By keeping your body hydrated, you'll do wonders to decrease joint pain and stiffness.
Take Constant Inventory Of Your Posture
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice we can offer those who struggle with neck and back pain while traveling. It's easy to get caught up in the drive if you're the one behind the wheel and not realize how slouched over you are. And with your hands on the wheel, you're actively engaging muscles in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. As such, you'll develop some serious stiffness if you don't keep your posture dialed in.
This goes for passengers in the vehicle too - and applies when you're flying as well. Make sure your back is aligned against the seat, and keep your head on your headrest. This will at the very least keep your spine in alignment, which really helps to prevent or minimize neck pain. Keep your shoulders neutral and avoid slouching or hunching forward. And, keep your feet flat on the floor with your legs straight - don't sit criss-cross apple sauce or with your legs crossed over each other. This will bring hip and knee pain into the equation - making for a miserable day of travel.
This tip is especially important for those who are flying. The last thing you want to do is be running through the airport with heavy bags on your back or in your arms. But, it is also important to consider what you're packing when you're in the car, too. The last thing you want is to have to sit in an uncomfortable position that contributes to poor posture because you have too much luggage in the back seat of your car or in your lap.
Get Some Good Exercise Before and After Traveling
While it won't help you during your actual journey, we encourage you to get a good workout in before traveling and as soon after as possible. You've heard us talk a lot about how inactivity can contribute to poor blood flow. Well, by moving as soon as you touch down, you can reengage those inactive muscles and get blood back flowing to them. If you're going to be at your destination for more than a week, you can easily get a few workouts in during your stay. This will go a long way in loosening up your body and preventing neck pain on your journey back home.
Plan Ahead To Help Curb Neck and Shoulder Pain While Traveling
The final tip we're going to share to help you manage your neck and shoulder pain while traveling is to plan ahead. You can bring things on your journey with you to help you manage and treat this pain and stiffness For example, a supportive neck pillow is a great way to prop your head up and allow your neck's muscles to relax. You'll also enjoy some great sleep while you're on the road or in the sky - without compromising on your posture! If you have other types of pain - like low back stiffness - you may also want to look into a lumbar pillow, too.
You can also bring cold packs or heating pads - each one has its place when it comes to neck pain. But, we recommend you definitely bring something to heat up those neck muscles, along with those in your upper back and shoulders. Again - this will help with blood flow to these muscles that are getting poor circulation while you sit for an extended period of time. Of course, you can also pack a few anti-inflammatories if you've been prescribed them by a doctor. We are always hesitant to recommend these to people as it is very easy to become dependent on these and avoid looking into the root cause of your chronic pain. But while traveling, you can use these as an emergency for neck pain or shoulder pain.
How To Address The Root Cause Of Shoulder & Neck Pain
As we said earlier, this guide will provide you with both quick tricks and tips along with remedies to actively treat neck pain. Now that you know how to make your time traveling a bit more comfortable, we're ready to move onto the part that most people overlook: treating the root cause. Because most people overlook this aspect, they end up dealing with chronic shoulder and neck pain each and every time they travel. Don't make the same mistakes they do - look into actively strengthening your neck and eliminating the imbalances that cause pain! Neck pillows and a good night's sleep will only help so much.
How Training Your Neck Will Eliminate Pain and Stiffness
Most humans have very weak necks these days. As such, neck pain runs rampant throughout our civilization. There are so many important little muscles in our neck that you may not even realize exist. These stabilizing muscles play a vital role in our everyday life, and by keeping them strong and mobilized, you'll easily kick neck pain to the curb for good. So, how do you train your neck effectively? Maybe you've seen people do this before at your gym, or in videos online. Yes, it looks a bit strange at first.
Perhaps this is the reason so many people never actually get around to training their necks. But believe us when we say the benefits are well worth it. We won't take a deep dive on neck training here today, because that's a whole separate topic for another day. In fact, we actually have a complete guide on neck training in our blog already. We highly recommend you take a look and start implementing the exercises we recommend there. They'll pay off the next time you travel.
Find All Your Neck Training Essentials At Iron Neck!
When you're ready to start taking your neck training seriously, look no further than the Iron Neck Training Machine. This is the most innovative piece of equipment in the industry and is used in weight rooms and physical therapy offices around the globe. It unlocks unparalleled training versatility, granting you access to 360-degree rotation. You'll gain access to the best training possible, with exercises that are only possible through the Iron Neck.
If you want to start a bit slower, you can't go wrong with our neck harnesses and resistance loop bands either. These are quite a bit more affordable and serve as a good introduction to neck training. While you won't unlock the same extensive database of exercises, this tandem is still a great choice. We also have resistance bars, band handles, and straps to unlock full-body training. The best part? If you're taking an extended vacation, you can easily bring the Iron Neck or your resistance bands and harness on your trip with you! With a resistance band door anchor, they easily secure to any door frame so you can keep at your training regimen from your hotel, AirBnB, or grandma's house!