Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | November 17, 2011

Holiday Travel Tips

Back Pain: From Baggage You Haven’t Even Unpacked

Location:  Baggage claim: a seemingly harmless area in the presence of an untrained eye, but to an ergonomist there are design deficits which are detrimental to the health and mood of travelers.  Low baggage carousels, heavy baggage and over-the-shoulder bags can lead to back strain and other muscoskeletal pain.  With all the travel and airport security stress that occur at the beginning of our destination, muscle, back, leg and joint pain can contribute to eventually turning us into cranky airport monsters!

Well, if you follow good ergonomic strategies you can avoid these uncomfortable situations in the airport. Prevention is the best insurance against a back injury.  To prevent back injury, only you can change and adjust your behaviors to lead to a pain free life in and out of the airport.

First step: keep a fresh image of your back in mind before sitting, standing, lifting, or any other activity that may have potential for back strain.

Second Step: Plan your Actions.  Think ahead and find potential hazards to your back before lifting.  This way you can manipulate your environment to yield better conditions for your back.

These two steps were only the preliminary throught processes to gain awareness of the relationship between your back and physical environment.  Next you will find six easy steps for lifting properly. And this can save you when lifting heavy baggage resting on low carousels in airports.

1. Get a firm footing: Feet are to be shoulder-width apart with toes pointing straight forward. This creates a stable base for your body.

2. Bend your knees: Bending your knees brings the core or center of balance within your body closer to the object you are lifting which can contribute to greater balance and stability.  Bending your knees and bringing your hips closer to an object will help maintain the natural curve of you spine (as long as you keep it in mind!) Do not bend at the waist. Heavy lifting with your lower back can cause lower back strain.

3.  Tighten your stomach muscles: One of the great lessons in all yoga poses is to exhale while drawing in the center of your belly button and flexing the core muscles of your abdomen. The intentions of this lesson are to increase your stability by drawing tension into your core where balance is centered.  So tightening your muscles while in a crouched position will lessen the stress on your spine and also add to the great stability you are already practicing!

4.  Lift with your legs: Our legs are powerful! Let them do all of the work rather than our weaker back muscles. After all our spines rest on our pelvis which is supported by our sturdy thigh and leg muscles.  And don’t forget to maintain your back’s three natural curves while doing so!

5.  Keep the object close: The closer an item is to our spine, the less stress is placed on our lower backs.

6.  Keep your back upright:  Whether lifting or lowering an object, it is important to maintain the three natural curves of your spine. When we lean over an object and choose to lift it, this adds our own body weight to the object.

-Avoid Twisting!: This can cause injury by adding stress via motion to the lumbar curve and discs in our back.

So from this we can deduce there is a wrong way to lift and a right way! Do not bend over and lift with legs straight. This adds weight and strain to our spine because it has to do 10x the work it needs to.  Think of our back lifting an object like this: When a pirate is walking the plank, does the board appear to have more strain when he’s standing closer to the ship or closer to the dark watery depths of the ocean? If a ship had feelings I think she would say “ow!”  Our backs are experiencing the same kind of physical strain when we lift objects. So remember the right way:  Bend the knees, maintain curvature, and practice balance while using our strong thigh muscles to lift.

Are you standing next to an Airport Monster?

Airport Carousels: There’s just something fishy about them.

They are almost designed to entice wrong lifting practices. Our planks are breaking!

~Pamela

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