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by David Merson, DPT, ATC

physical therapy for travelers

Travel is an inevitable part of life. Whether a short car drive or a long plane ride, for business or pleasure, traveling is almost sure to come with some discomforts. And if you’re in the middle of recovering from an injury, it is especially important to take some extra steps towards adjusting your travel plans to meet your needs. Here are a few easy guidelines to help you do just that:

Traveling After Recent Surgery:  Take the time to clear your travel plans with your treating physician. If you are at risk for complications (such as, for instance, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), your physician will be able to go over those with you prior to your trip.  Be sure to stand up and walk around the airplane, do some basic stretches, and/or wear lower leg compression stockings.  There are many additional ways to address traveling after a recent surgery – please consult with your physician and physical therapist to put together an individualized plan.

Driving Long Distances:  Whether my patient is behind the wheel or in the passenger seat during a long car drive, I always advise them to take frequent long breaks to stand up, walk around, and stretch out their hip flexors, low back, legs, and front of their shoulders.  Your physical therapist will be able to put together a series of simple and effective stretches prior to your trip. Posture is also important when sitting in the car seat for long periods of time.  Please refrain from slouching as much as possible, and be sure to have proper support for your neck and back.

Equipment on the Go:  Many of my patients use a soft tissue mobilization device such as a foam roller. However, a foam roller may be too large for travel.  A good alternative solution is to bring along a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, and/or stretching strap that can be used for self-soft tissue work and stretching.   It is important to maintain your strength and endurance while you travel. Losing ground in your rehabilitation process is an unfortunate reality for many patients because of the lack time or available equipment when on the road.

Planning Ahead:  If you are in the middle of the rehab process, try to schedule some time daily to devote to your home exercise program.  Most programs take just a few minutes each day and make an enormous difference in the rate of your recovery.

Take Advantage of that Hotel Pool:  If your hotel has a pool available to its guests, you’re in luck!  Using the pool is a great opportunity to relax your muscles, perform aquatic walking and aquatic stretching.  These aquatic activities can be a great adjunct to your current rehab program.  Please consult with your physical therapist and/or physician prior to performing this type of activity.

Overall, please consult with your sports medicine providers in an effort to create an individualized plan that is most effective for you. And safe travels!

Dr. Merson is a Physical Therapist at Boston Sports Medicine