Ergonomics on the Road: Between 2 Points
Spring is here and summertime is around the corner - a time for hammocks, a time for leisure and, especially, a time for travel. Unfortunately, for some, it may also be a time of injury. Though postural monitoring and body mechanics are typically thought of workplace practices, these elements can help in our much needed travels away from the workplace. So, let's take a moment to see how we can apply these concepts about posture, and hopefully keep these times as healthy and enjoyable as possible.
POINT 1: POSTURE – Ears, Shoulders, Hips
By vertically aligning these three landmarks (ears, shoulders, hips), we are able to maintain the natural curves of our spine. From sitting in your beach chair to standing at your barbecue to backpacking on the trail - try not to let your posture go with your inhibitions.
- Choose your footwear carefully – what is most fashionable is not always the most functional. Keep the minimally supportive shoes (i.e. sandals) for the short walks from the hotel to the beach and make sure that you wear well supportive shoes (i.e. sneakers) if the day's activities call for lots of walking and/or exploring.
- Fit your backpack appropriately – beware the overloaded bag, and shun the low hanging straps. Try to keep the amount of weight in your bag to a reasonable limit – do you need to be carrying around your solar powered tomato slicer at all times? Also, wear both straps securely around both shoulders. Gone are the days of the one shoulder carry and allowing the bag weight to swing down to your bottom.
POINT 2: BODY MECHANICS – Bending, Twisting, Reaching
A tale from baggage claim:
We have all been there before - excitedly rushing to baggage claim to get our luggage and begin our vacation, or cantankerously trying to outrun the other passengers to get our bags and get home. Sometimes it's best to pause, take a breath, and realize that everyone else is trying to do the same thing; and that there are most likely 37 other passengers with the same black, rolling suitcase (That's why there is a big ‘Hello Kitty' sticker on mine…I mean…uh…Eagles sticker). Also try to keep some of these other tenants of body mechanics and posture in mind as you try to push through the masses. Such as:
- Be careful with how much you are bending – If your suitcase is resting high up on the slow, perpetual belt, it is most likely caught on top of someone else's slow moving possessions. Additionally, it is most likely that this other bag weighs as much, if not more than your own. Try not to bend over and simultaneously move the lower level bag and lift your own. It is best to separate the bags on the first run and the appropriately lift (i.e., squat) your bag on the next pass.
- Be careful with how much you are twisting – Once the slow boat of the luggage carousel has brought your bag back around, please do not try to lift and throw your bag down over the side without moving your feet. Remember to keep your "nose and toes" in the same direction. Especially if you forgot that your bag is now carrying an extra 10-15 lbs. of towels & shampoos that "came" with your room and 17, newly purchased puka shell necklaces.
- Be careful with how much you are reaching – It can be quite admirable to be the family Bag Whisperer that bravely volunteers to swim through the Tour De France-like crowds that swarm the sides of the luggage belt; however, be careful not to overplay, or more specifically to overreach your hand. As you subsequently remove each travel companion's suitcase, from Aunt Bethany's to Cousin Eddy's, ensure that you are not stacking them immediately in front of your feet. As that pile gets bigger and bigger you will have to reach farther and farther for the next bag and the harder and harder it will become to lift each suitcase (especially those containing the aforementioned puka shell necklace weight).
So remember to pack your posture and body mechanics along with your temperature-controlled buckwheat airplane pillow so that your travel can go as healthy as possible. Being that a major aspect of traveling is proper body movement, you may find yourself having a question about these key elements to healthy travel. Contact your Strive Therapist to ensure that you are taking the right preventative measures. If you do sustain an injury while trotting the globe, contact your local Strive clinic to determine if you are in need of an evaluation to address your injury.
Bon Voyage! -JM
Jason has been a licensed Occupational Therapist since graduating with a Bachelor’s (2001) and Master’s Degree (2002) in Occupational Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University.
Jason is a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist – Level II, having received these credentials from The Back School of Atlanta, and is trained in administering Pre-Placement Post-Offer Assessments, Job Demand Analysis, and Functional Capacity Evaluations. His areas of clinical expertise are derived from multiple years in an academic health center, acute care, and outpatient service delivery. Jason is licensed in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is currently a faculty member for the Thomas Jefferson University Occupational Therapy Program.
Jason and his wife Sara are the proud parents of Madeline and Evelyn. In his free time, Jason enjoys reading, music and spending family time at the beach.