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5 Things Your Physiotherapist Wishes You Know About Travelling

Physio&SoleClinic Physiotherapy December 14 2017

Armed with one of the most powerful passports in the world, Singaporeans traverse the globe frequently, especially during the holiday season!

Unfortunately, many travellers sustain injuries during their holidays, which is quite a bummer! Here are some tips to take note of to staying injury-free this holiday season.


Injuries can happen when one takes on too much physical activity suddenly. Travellers who usually lead a sedentary lifestyle often find that their body is not equipped to handle the physical demands of outdoor sports like skiing and mountain climbing during the holidays. For those who barely exercise or walk daily, they will find that even the leisurely strolls through new cities day after day can put a strain on their legs.

It is often much safer to do targeted exercises or training in the 12 weeks prior to your holiday to prepare the body physically. Warm-up and cool-down stretching before and after physical activities will also be very helpful. For those undergoing physiotherapy for existing injuries, you should discuss with your physiotherapist if you are physically able to handle the activities planned for your holiday, and how to prepare for it.



Not all suitcases are created equal! Choose one that rolls smoothly, and has a light but sturdy frame. Avoid over-packing and making your suitcase too heavy. Choose a luggage with wheels and a handle.

Keep in mind your travel destination – are there a lot of stairs? Will there be paved paths to wheel your suitcases? If not, you might want to consider choosing a bag that you can carry, like a backpack. It is no fun carting a trolley bag up and down the subway staircases in Paris or the steps over the bridges in Venice.

When packing a backpack, try to put the heaviest items closest to your back. This keeps the weight close to your centre of gravity, and that means you do not have to spend excessive energy holding it up. Adjust the straps to your size to ensure you have got the best fit. When using a backpack, ensure that it has two padded, adjustable shoulder straps to balance the weight equally.

Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need assistance loading bags into overhead lockers, vehicles or suitcase lockers. You can always make new friends while travelling!

Packing well and wearing your pack properly can avoid unwanted neck, shoulder, back and leg injuries during travel.


The larger and heavier your luggage, the more at risk you are for neck, back, and shoulder injuries. Lifting and carrying bulky luggage can strain your bones, muscles, and joints.

Here are some tips to prevent injuries while lifting and carrying:

  • Lift from your legs, not your back: Keep your back straight and bend at the knees – not the waist – to pick items up from the ground.
  • Avoid twisting while carrying: If you have to turn, point your toes in the direction you are headed and turn your entire body in that direction.
  • Use both hands, not one: This decreases stress to the spine. Less weight on any one arm can also reduce the risk of developing “suitcase elbow,” a chronic condition similar to “tennis elbow.”
  • Two-step lifting: When placing luggage in an overhead compartment, first lift it onto the top of the seat. Place your hands on the left and right sides of the suitcase before lifting. If your luggage has wheels, make sure the wheel-side is set in the compartment first. Once the wheels are inside, put one hand atop the luggage and push it to the back of the compartment. To remove the luggage, reverse this process.

The key is to maikanjeong (not to rush) when lifting or carrying a suitcase. Seek help if you are unable to manage it on your own!


If you are planning a hiking trip, research on the weather conditions and terrain which you will be hiking on, so as to pack the appropriate shoes. For example, for a hike in the Scottish Highlands where the trails can be rough, uneven and slippery, you will need a pair of waterproof boots with good ankle support and good grip on the soles.

If you have any prescribed tools for your movement or health, such as insoles, walking aids or therabands for a hotel-room physiotherapy exercise routine, make sure you take them with you. Continuing your normal self-care routine goes a long way to avoiding preventable injuries.


The most common issues I see (from returning travellers) tend to surround prolonged sitting in planes, trains, buses or ferries. Our bodies are designed to move, bend, twist and lift. Hence when you cramp yourself into a small space and stay really still for a long time, your body is going to let you know about it one way or another!

The best way to get around this is to take small movement breaks, in addition to the toilet breaks! Get up and move around regularly. The exercise techniques are as unobtrusive as possible. Nevertheless, be oblivious to the curious stares from other passengers. Your back/legs/neck/hips will thank you when you get to your destination and comfortably walk off the plane, pain-free.

We hope these tips will be useful for you for your trip this holiday season. Stay safe, and enjoy your trip. Happy Holidays!

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