Holiday back pain

Holiday back pain

By |2013-08-10T09:47:04+00:00August 10th, 2013|Causes of Low Back Pain, Everyday Tips|Comments Off on Holiday back pain

In Edinburgh at this time of year we see a lot of tourists in pain.  And shortly we’ll have an influx of Edinburgh folk returning from holiday with lower back pain.  What is it about holidays that aggravates lower backs (and what to do about it)?

Carrying Bags

Lots of people lift heavy suitcases and bags when holidaying.  For those of us not used to lifting heavy weights, this is a risk factor.

  • Remember to prepare for the lift – draw up your pelvic floor and firm up your abdominal muscles.  Perhaps test the weight of it carefully before “going for it”.  If it’s 20kg+, for many people this is a two-man lift!
  • Make sure you are as close as possible to the bag when you pick it up.  Don’t try to pick something heavy up “on the run” (reminds me of Manuel in Faulty Towers).
  • Seems obvious, but – use trolleys and wheels whenever possible.  Best to push rather than pull cases on wheels – the twisting caused by pulling can set off back problems.

Slouching on loungers and sitting for long periods

Lots of people lie on sun loungers with poor support for lower back, or read in awkward positions.  Lying on your front will often aggravate lower back problems.  Sitting for hours on an aeroplane or other mode of transport often sets pain off too.

  • Make sure you’re well supported.  On a sun lounger it’s best to lie flat rather than propped up with your legs straight out infront of you.
  • Don’t stay in any position for more than 45 minutes without getting up to move around (unless it’s your normal sleeping position!).
  • When travelling, try to do whatever exercises you can – even clenching and relaxing your thighs, buttock and lower back muscles can be helpful in staving off problems.

Dodgy pillows and mattresses

Not a lot you can do about this, but pillows and mattresses are often not as good as you’re used to at home (although sometimes they’re better!).

  • If your neck doesn’t seem to be getting the support you’re used to, try rolling up a hand towel and putting it inside the pillow case at the bottom end of the pillow.

Unusual activities

Waterskiing may look like fun (or banana boating), but unless you’re used to it, there are definite risks of injury attached.  Remember that any strenuous activity your body isn’t used to can cause injury.

  • Make sure to warm up first.  Ask the instructor how to minimise risk of injury.


It may seem ironic, but holidays are quite stressful for a lot of people (especially parents of young children).  Stress often aggravates pain, so if you can’t think of a good physical reason for your pain, perhaps consider that it’s just the stress of holidays 🙁

And if all else fails, just give us a ring and we’ll put it right for you!  Happy Holidays!


PS – I know I should have written this a month earlier, but perhaps you’ll remember the info for next holidays 😉





About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh, and is currently working on a new book. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.