Nobody wants to have to deal with a bad back when traveling, but problems can always occur, and some kinds of vacation activity make them more likely. As nobody would advocate avoiding things that are fun at a time that’s meant for letting go, it’s a good idea to be risk-aware and know what to do if something does go wrong. This makes it possible to relax in the knowledge that real crises are less likely, and that even if one does occur, it’s a lot less likely to do lasting damage.
Risks on the road
When we travel, we often spend a lot of time in one position, whether behind the wheel of a car or squeezed into an airplane seat. This in itself can be bad for the back, especially when coupled with vibration. It can exacerbate long-term problems that might not have flared up for a while, and it can cause newly strained muscles to get worse very quickly.
A lot of people use vacations as a chance to engage in the sports they love. When out of practice, however, it’s easy to pull a muscle doing something as simple as playing tennis or swinging a golf club. When it comes to adventure sports like rock climbing or bungee jumping, much more serious injuries can happen. There’s also an increased risk of trips and falls when people drink heavily on vacation.
Identifying a back injury
Minor back injuries, such as those from strained muscles, tend to hurt quite a bit. Serious back injuries, however, sometimes don’t hurt at all. For this reason, any injury that impacts that part of the body (or the head or neck) should be treated as potentially serious. If the back or neck are oddly positioned, if the person complains of pain or if there are signs that the person might be confused or drifting in or out of consciousness, medical help should be sought.
Sometimes severe spinal injuries don’t become apparent straight away. A person might walk and talk normally but be at risk of life-changing injury if they happen to move the wrong way. Signs to watch out for are confusion, muscle weakness, bladder or bowel problems, or difficulty moving the limbs normally.
Back injury first aid
Knowing what to do when somebody suffers a sudden back injury is extremely important. It could save that person from paralysis or even from death.
The first and most important thing is to tell the injured person to keep still, and make no attempt to move them. Call an ambulance straight away. It’s important to make sure the head doesn’t move, even if it’s at an odd angle, so it’s a good idea to use a towel or jacket to support it. If the person has stopped breathing, the head shouldn’t be tilted back to clear the airways. Instead, the jaw should be gently eased forward before artificial respiration is given.
In an emergency where a person with a back injury absolutely has to be moved, at least two people are needed to do it, taking care to keep the head and body in the same relative positions throughout and keep the back from twisting. A plank of wood, a surfboard or a similar object can be used to make this easier.
People who travel when injured are at increased risk of making minor back injuries worse. If possible, it’s better to set aside plans and arrange to spend two to four days resting in one place, lying down as much as possible. Applying ice to the affected area can help a lot during this time, as it will prevent swelling and thus make it less likely that the injury will be aggravated by movement. Ibuprofen is the best painkiller to use as it also reduces swelling.
Sleeping in a fetal position relieves the strain on the back during the night, especially if a pillow is placed between the knees. Exercise should be avoided for at least two weeks. If the injury continues to cause discomfort for more than two weeks, it’s a good idea to see a Detroit chiropractor or other specialist for advice.
One thing a specialist can help with is providing advice on appropriate exercise. After the immediate injury has had time to heal, exercise will be needed to build up the surrounding muscles and provide proper support. Including a healthy amount of exercise in day-to-day life will also help decrease the risk of future back injuries occurring.