3 Essential ways to avoid Holiday Pains
Holiday and travelling can be a pain in the neck or the shoulder, literally.
Going on a holiday is meant to be relaxing for the mind, body and soul. Many of us, however, know that some trips can turn out to be quite the opposite. How many of us have returned from a break to find more stress and long hours grappling with the backlog at work and that persistent pain in your arm, neck or shoulder that just will not go away. Most people would associate these issues to be work related due to extra hours at the desk. The real problem might have a closer correlation to your holiday than you think.
Some of the most common pains from holidays are back strain, upper limb nerve injuries and most commonly neck.
Our Senior Principal Physiotherapist, Chng Chye Tuan shares that during holidays, our aches and pains are often masked by the distraction of new sights and sounds and the adrenaline generated by the rush to meet our packed itineraries. It is quite common to feel it only upon a restful period or the problem can accumulate and carry over back to work. Hence, it is understandable why going back to work takes the blame.
These are the types of injury you may sustain from going on holidays
- Neck: Traction Mechanism. Neck injuries could possibly be caused by :
- Hanging off injury – pulling of heavy bags or suitcase with out-stretched arm, pulling away from the neck from dangling heavy shopping bags.
- Pillows, different beds, tight confined space, insufficient legroom, awkward posture from sleeping on the plane or on unfriendly beds and pillows.
- Shoulder: Rotator cuff strains which could possibly be attributed to from carrying luggage, shoulder pain from heaving heavy objects on the overhead compartments of airplanes lifting of heavy bags, e.g. to cabin overhead compartment, from platform to platform, shopping
Your Pain in the Neck
In the human body, the nerves from the base of the neck contribute to the Brachial Plexus, which supplies the nerves to the upper limbs.
Injuries to the neck can lead to symptoms that run down to the upper limb. It commonly shows up in the outer side of the forearm, wrists, shoulder & fingers. The nature of pain can vary from achy pain, weakness, pins & needles, numbness or even a lack of sensation.
A good physiotherapist will have to carefully diagnose, paying close attention to the patient’s recent activities and history to draw possible associations with various mechanisms and movement patterns that could be driving the symptoms.
For example, someone who experiences pain in the forearm or elbow may possibly be misdiagnosed with Tennis Elbow. The patient may think it could be due to excessive typing or from poor posture at work but in reality the work environment has not changed before or after the holiday and workload is essentially the same. In such a case, diagnosis might be a neck traction injury affecting the nerves of the upper limb brought about by lugging heavy suitcases and hanging bags off the shoulders for longer than usual periods of time.
Our team of physiotherapists apply a reasoning approach to identify the root of the problem by using diagnostic tests, which helps to differentiate one mechanism from another allowing them to focus on the real source of the problem.
Chye Tuan highlights: “We, the physiotherapists are the CSI for the human body. We troubleshoot the problem; we target the source, not just treating the symptoms.”
So what can I do about my holiday pains?
Chye Tuan would like to highlight the following few points:
- Treatment has to be directed specifically to the source of the pain (the neck) and not the area the pain is felt (the elbow).
- Physiotherapists unravel the mystery of your pain. Go and see someone to seek diagnosis of the source of pain and not just to seek relief from your pain.
- Usually people will leave it alone and hope that pain will go away spontaneously. If pain persists for more than 2 weeks, seek help from a trusted practitioner
3 Essential Tips to avoiding those holiday pains:
- Be Prepared: Do you have a “security blanket”? Who says security blankets are only for the little ones. If it helps, bring along your favourite neck pillow or cushion to give yourself a better sleep on the plane or even on that unfamiliar bed and pillows in the hotel room to help avoid any awkward curling of the neck or shoulder just to get some rest.
- Exercise: Just because you are on holiday does not mean you can forget about your normal exercise routine. If possible, maintain your usual routines to help reduce abnormal muscular tension developing while coping with the strain of carrying of heavy suitcases and shopping. Spending 30 mins or more in a hotel gym or going for long walks with good footwear will also provide you with mental health you need during the hustle and bustle of holidaying.
- Targeted stretches: while travelling, regularly do these few stretches, which will instantly reduce muscular tension on your neck and back. Here are some of the useful exercises Core Concepts have designed to reduce holiday pains.
- Bergsten, E. L., Mathiassen, S. E., & Vingård, E. (2015). Psychosocial Work Factors and Musculoskeletal Pain: A Cross-Sectional Study among Swedish Flight Baggage Handlers. BioMed research international, 2015.
- Gatchel, R. J., & Schultz, I. Z. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of musculoskeletal pain and disability disorders in the workplace. Springer.
- Rintala, H., Häkkinen, A., Siitonen, S., & Kyröläinen, H. (2015). Relationships between physical fitness, demands of flight duty, and musculoskeletal symptoms among military pilots. Military medicine, 180(12), 1233-1238.