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Maintain Motion While Traveling With These 7 Simple Stretches

Maintain Motion While Traveling With These 7 Simple Stretches

Traveling is common during spring break for students and their families, but those long plane or car rides can be so taxing on your body and make it hard to enjoy yourself at your destination.

Whether you’re a passenger in the car or flying cross country, here are a few exercises and stretches to help keep your neck, back, and hips from stiffening up on you during your travels.

Upper Trap Stretch

The upper trapezius is a muscle that often tightens and can lead to tension headaches, especially if you tend to carry a lot of stress in your shoulder muscles. Stretch the upper trap muscle by tilting your head to the side and then gently rotating it up toward the ceiling. To intensify the stretch, gently place your hand on your head and let gravity pull your head down a little bit more.

Upper Trap Stretch (1)

Upper Trap Stretch (2)

Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 times on each side.

Levator Scapulae Stretch

This is another muscle that connects out shoulder blade to the upper part of our neck, and can also lead to headaches if tight. Stretch out your levator muscle by reaching your chin towards the armpit. To intensify the stretch, gently place your hand on your head and let gravity pull your head down a little bit more.

Levator Scapulae Stretch (1)

Levator Scapulae Stretch (2)

Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 times on each side.

Self-Massage with Lacrosse Ball

If the above stretches weren’t enough to loosen up the knots in your neck and upper shoulders, massaging out the knots by rolling out with a lacrosse ball may work better for you.

Don’t have a lacrosse ball? Use a tennis ball!

Wedge the ball between a trigger point or area of pain and your seat, push your weight back into the ball and make small movement side to side or small circles to rub out the tight spots. Add head turns to the right and the left to maximize the stretch.

Self-Massage (1)

Self-Massage (2)

Continue for 1-2 minutes on each side.

Figure 4 Stretch

It’s easy for our hip and gluteal muscles to get tight when they endure so much compression from sitting on them for a prolonged amount of time. Here’s how you can stretch out the hips with this figure 4 stretch. Cross one ankle over the thigh just above the knee, hinge forward at your hips until you feel a good stretch in the side of your upper hip. If there’s not enough room to cross the leg over the other, just hug the knee up into your chest as far as you can to stretch out the back of the hip.

Figure 4 Stretch (1)

Figure 4 Stretch (2)

Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 times on each side.

Spinal Rotation Stretch

Sitting, especially with slouched posture, puts a large amount of compression on our vertebral discs. Keep blood flow and nutrition flowing to your joints with this sitting twist to stretch out the spine. Push against the outside of your leg to get a strong twist in the spine.

Spinal Rotation Stretch (1)

Spinal Rotation Stretch (2)

Hold 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times for each side.

Ankle Pumps

To avoid development of a deep vein thrombosis in the calf, it’s super important to maintain continuous return of blood flow from the extremities back to the heart. Simple activation of the calf muscles via ankle pumps helps increase blood flow by having the muscles squeeze around the veins in our legs.

Ankle Pumps (1)

Ankle Pumps (2)

Repeat for 1-2 minutes every 30 minutes.

Hip Flexor Stretch

When you’re sitting for a long amount of time, your hip flexors are stuck in a shortened position and can tighten over time. Then when you stretch them out by standing up, they pull your back into an excessive arch and can lead to back pain.

It’s super important to stretch out your hip flexors whenever you get a chance to stand up and stretch out your legs.

Stand with your feet staggered in a lung position and lean your body weight toward the front foot by bending the knee. Try to keep your bottom tucked underneath you, don’t arch your back!

Hip Flexor Stretch (1)

Hip Flexor Stretch (2)

Hold for at least 30 seconds (1-2 minutes is even better if you can tolerate it). Repeat 1-2 times on each side.

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Taylor Rossi, PT, DPT
In her spare time, she enjoys visiting family and friends, hiking, archery, kayaking, spoiling her dogs, roller skating, listening to The Beatles, taking road trips, and traveling the world. She also enjoys watching the current award-winning TV shows and 90’s movies.