Choosing the right luggage, packing smartly, and doing a little preventive physical exercise can help save your back when you hit the road. Want to save your back the next time you run through the airport in time to board your plane? The key, says Michael Zimring, M.D., medical director for the Center of Wilderness and Travel Medicine at the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD and co-author of Healthy Travel: Don’t Travel Without It, is to keep in mind that choosing the wrong luggage or being careless when lifting your bag can wreak havoc on your back and spine. What’s a traveling mom to do when she has back-to-back conventions and family vacations scheduled? We asked Zimring for some advice. Check out his back-friendly travel tips.

 

  1. Do your reps when you’re home. Pull out those vinyl dumbbells you have stashed in your closet and go to work with some reverse flies! By strengthening your back muscles in advance, handling travel (sans the negative physical consequences) is a breeze. Just remember: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  2. Be a minimalist. “The smaller the luggage, the better. And the lighter, the better,” Dr. Zimring says. What to look for: lightweight materials and construction. What to avoid like the plague: big, bulky luggage. What to remember: less is more when it comes to packing. “It’s easier to bring a box of Tide to clean and wash your clothes,” Zimring says, than it is to lug around tons of clothes that you’ll wear just once. Let packing light be your mantra.

  3. Pop a wheelie. All of your bags should be equipped with wheels, from your big suitcase to your carry-on. “Wheels are essential, even for a computer bag,” says Dr. Zimring. “They talk about heart attacks that happen at an airport. It’s usually the person on the ground, running from gate to gate with a heavy piece of luggage.” An added tip: Wheels are useless if your handle is uncomfortable, ripped or otherwise malfunctioning. Check that both the wheels and the handles are all sturdy before investing in a bag.

  4. Keep it stable. Your bag’s purchased, packed, and ready – now what? Never twist and bend your body into awkward positions because your chances of injury skyrocket, warns Dr. Zimring. Be sure that you’ve got good form (as perfect as your downward dog!) whenever you slide or lift your bag. Keep these guidelines in mind: bend at your knees, lift with your entire body, and avoid twisting motions at all costs. “Find a nice, easy way to slide your bag in or to lift it into the [overhead compartment] or get someone else to do it for you,” Zimring says. “Let them break their back!”