Surviving Summer Vacation Travel With Back Pain

Authored by: VSI

There’s still plenty of Summer to be enjoyed, it’s time for that needed vacation! As busy Americans we need this time to relax, re-set, and create special memories with friends and

The U.S Travel Association reported that in 2018, U.S. residents logged 1.8 billion person-trips for leisure purposes.1 While most people are very excited for their upcoming trip, if you are in the 80% of people who experience low back pain2… you might be dreading traveling for your next vacation.

Here is a list of my recommendations to help you prepare and enjoy your trip. You’ve spent all this time planning for it, so why not enjoy it!


  1. Bring a Doctor’s Letter
    • Having a letter from your doctor provides validation when asking for medical assistance.
  2. More Bags the Better 
    • More bags = less weight. If the number of bags is restricted, pack with a purpose. Keep it light and small.
  3. Use a Backpack
    • Using a backpack keeps the weight distributed evenly across your body.
  4. Schedule a Massage
    • If you’re traveling to a resort, make sure to schedule your massage in advance.
  5. Heat/Ice
    • When possible, travel with a reusable heat/ice pack. A combination pack is best.
  6. Scheduling Breaks
    • Plan extra time into your schedule. This will allow for breaks as needed.
  7. Electric Stimulation (TENS Unit)
    • Use as recommended by provider. YES you can take this on a plane – at security let TSA know you have one.
  1. Walking with a Suitcase
    • Push your suitcase in front of you to keep a neutral spine.
  2. Baggage Assistance
    • Use airline assistance to get your luggage to your gate and from baggage claim. At your resort, use the bellhop to get your luggage to and from your room.
  3. Airport Security
    • Wear slip on shoes to avoid prolonged bending.
  4. Aisle Seat
    • Having an aisle seat helps you get up frequently to take stretching breaks.
  5. Neck Pillow/Inflatable Pillow
    • Using a pillow will help support your head and neck while sleeping in an upright position.
  6. Driving
    • Take stops frequently. If you know your limit then stop accordingly. If you don’t know your limit, try drinking 1-2 cups of water per hour to help you stop.
  7. Exercise
    • Visit your resort’s gym, or make some space in your room. Keeping up with your home exercise plan while on vacation is very important.

In addition to these general travel tips, it’s important to maintain your home exercise program and pay attention to your body mechanics to keep a neutral spine. This can be done by bending at the knees when picking up large or heavy items like: luggage, surf boards, bikes, camping equipment, etc. It’s always a good idea to hold objects close to your heart to protect your spine. And lastly, be sure to sit up straight with your feet flat, and keep your back supported.

If your back pain is still an issue when you come back from vacation, you should call Virginia Therapy & Fitness Center to schedule your initial consultation for physical therapy. Our Physical Therapists are spine specialized, and can help you become pain free – especially before your next vacation!

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