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Posted on in Orthopedics

Save Your Vacation And Your Back: Travel Packing Tips

Medically reviewed by Dr. David Lukowski McLeod Orthopaedics Seacoast

Last year, nearly 54,000 people had their vacations ruined by luggage-related injuries. Most of those injuries involved lifting bags in a hurry (probably in a rush to or at the airport) that were too heavy, over packed, or just plain bulky. “The most common injuries are to the shoulder, neck, wrist and back,” says McLeod Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. David Lukowski. “However, luggage handling can also aggravate existing knee and hip problems by exerting extra stress on these joints or creating bad posture.”  Here are some tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons that can help keep your vacation healthy and enjoyable:

  • NEW LUGGAGE.  When buying new travel bags, don’t buy cheap.  Purchase a sturdy, lightweight piece with wheels and a handle.
  • LIFTING LUGGAGE. If you are placing luggage in your car’s trunk, stand close to the bag.  Bend at your knees.  Grasp the handle and straighten up.  Once you have lifted it, hold the bag close to your body.
    • Don’t twist your body when lifting and carrying luggage.  Point your toes in the direction you’re headed.  Then, turn your entire body.
  • CARRY, DON’T DRAG luggage when climbing stairs.
  • USING A BACKPACK.  Make sure it has 2 padded and adjustable shoulder straps. 
    • Use both straps.  Slinging the backpack over one shoulder distributes weight unevenly, putting extra stress on some parts of the body.
  • AIRLINE CARRY-ON BAGS. If you’re placing luggage in an overhead compartment, first lift it to the top of the seat.  From there, put your hands on both sides of the suitcase or bag and lift up.
    • If your luggage has wheels, make sure the wheels go into the overhead bin first.  When the wheels are inside, put one hand on the top of the luggage and push it into the compartment.

Even the folks who handle baggage every day at the airport get tips from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration that you should heed:

  • Handling heavy, large or oddly shaped baggage can lead to awkward postures and excess force, increasing the risk of orthopedic injures.
  • Uneven loads – carrying two bags of different weights or one heavy bag – create uneven stress, making muscles, ligaments and spinal discs more prone to injury.

FINAL THOUGHT.  If you have knee, hip, shoulder or other pain that was triggered on your vacation, see an Orthopedic Specialist when you return.  Waiting may only make the problem worse. 

Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.  

Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Occupational Health & Safety Administration, US Consumer Production Safety Commission.

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