Picking Proper Luggage for Your Spine
Traveling can really be a pain in the back. Besides the bad hotel beds or uncomfortable car rides, lugging all that stuff from one destination to the next can really be the straw that breaks the back. When it comes to lugging stuff, one really has to think about the best choices in luggage for the spine. A trip to the airport baggage claim tells a lot about the good, bad and ugly choices. Some try to overcome poor choices by using the curbside service or luggage carts. In reality, the baggage has to be handled at some point and it is at that point when spine pain can really ruin a trip. Three key aspects of luggage should be considered before the trip of a lifetime: weight, mobility, and features. By getting the best of all three components, baggage does not have to be a drag.
A sore spine is very sensitive to load. Carrying too much weight can stress the ligaments, the discs, and the spine joints. Some have heard that backpacks should not weigh more than 10% of the body weight, especially in children. Too much weight pushes the spine beyond the tolerance point and can cause injury. Most have probably seen the behemoth “trunks” that even the strongest baggage handler can barely lift. A brief moment with someone else’s baggage can cause great injury. Thus, airlines are forced to put weight-limits on baggage to cut back on these work-related injuries. Common sense should dictate that the entire contents of the closet plus the kitchen sink are really unnecessary and should not be packed into one suitcase. Most of those who live with pain learn to pack light and use smaller pieces of luggage. A little less weight can go a long way towards a more comfortable trip.
Lately, the invention of attaching wheels to luggage has also come a long ways. The latest piece of luggage which capitalizes on a need for greater mobility is called a “spinner”. With four wheels that spin, this zippy suitcase can be wheeled with very little effort, as if floating on air. Less effort translates into less pain in the back. Those old two-wheeled suitcases that tip over, get stuck, and cannot keep up are a thing of the past. The next generation of wheeled suitcases is here to save the spine.
Beyond the invention of the wheel, some innovative features can push a suitcase into the realm of an assistive device like a cane, crutch or walker. One such product is a wheeled tote with a built-in seat. Some walkers have a built-in seat, why not a suitcase. Imagine someone standing in the dreaded security check-point line with no place to sit down to rest the weary body. If one has her/his own portable seat built right into the carry-on bag, standing in those lines would not be such a burden. Now, that is an invention worth leaving home for. Not surprisingly, the inventor of this particular piece of luggage had polio as a child. Necessity is the mother of all innovation.
Traveling is not necessarily a need, but it can be very enjoyable even for those in pain. Picking the right luggage can really help the trip go smoothly for the spine and the rest of the body. Light-weight, agile, and multi-functional luggage is a far cry from the old days of huge trunks that broke everyone’s backs. Pack sensibly, choose the proper luggage, and have fun traveling this summer.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.