Tips on preventing body injury while travelling long distances

Due to differences in distances travelled to reach respective destinations, some people have got to traverse very long distances that can last a day while others may take a relatively short time to get home or to work.
Dr Ronald Lubowa, an orthopaedic surgeon at Orthotech and Physical Rehabilitation International at Hotel Equatoria, says when the bottom part of the spinal cord (sacrum) experiences external pressures from travelling, the back muscles attached to the backbone are strained as a result of the strenuous movements, which induce back pain. It may
also come from the way passengers position their backs in an improper way because the pain comes from muscle strain and not bones. “As muscles pull bones away from their normal positions and they lose position, the intervertebral disc spaces in between the bones that make up the backbone reduce in size which leads to impingement of the
sensitive nerves of the spinal cord that are responsible for functioning of most parts of the body,” Lubowa says. The bones, he says, change position and move closer to the nerves which causes severe pain because the sensitive nerves are being compressed.

Injury prevention
To prevent back pain, Lubowa aises that a back rest that is manufactured to conform to the natural contours of the body for back rest should be used to protect the back from being strained.
“Seatbelts also prevent back pain because when the driver brakes instantly, the upper part of the body moves forward and the lower part remains behind. Seatbelts therefore limit body movement which otherwise causes tension on the backbone,” he adds.

Lubowa adds that using air rings, which are in the shape of a pillow, when seated on while travelling, help absorb shock when the car hits a pothole, also help to prevent backbone pain occurrence. “When someone gets back pain, it turns into a permanent condition that reoccurs with time, and in the long term, someone can get permanent paralysis and numbness of the lower limbs for the rest of their lives especially if the backbone nerves are continuously displaced to the lower limbs, leading to confinement to a wheel chair,” Lubowa explains.

Effects of long distance travel
Dr Umarashid Gulooba of African Air Rescue says the effects of travelling long distances differ for each person depending on age. If one is below 30 years, the effects are negligible, and if they are older and have comorbidities (presence of more than one disorder), the effect is complicated. “If someone is diabetic or overweight, they stand a risk of pushing their blood pressure higher or blood sugar because long distances mean that one is not having a proper diet of fruits and vegetables or drinking enough water,” Gulooba explains. “The old are also likely to have arthritis or joint inflammation,” he says. For arthritis, Gulooba says that if someone spends three hours without moving, they may stand up when joints are stiff or when legs are paralysed but this can happen to someone who is young though they
can shake it off. “If someone above 50 years does it consistently, they get more complicated arthritis.”
He adds that the most significant effect is Deep Venous Thrombosis (T), a situation where there are blood clots in veins. “Usually when people are older and they are overweight or may not be overweight and have high blood pressure, they are likely to suffer from deep venous thrombosis which is high when one remains stationary for more than three hours because if these clots go to the heart, you can get a heart attack and when they go the brain, you can get a stroke because they block the blood vessels,” he says.
According to Gulooba, if one is pregnant especially below 12 weeks, they stand a risk of having a spontaneousabortion especially if they have ever had one before.
The transport means also matter. If it is road transport, when roads are rough, the effect is aerse because the traveller will have severe backache compared to when roads are smooth where the pain is minimal if someone is drinking enough water and they are stretching their legs. “The effect is high if a person has had bone issues like hip replacement,” he adds.

Cost of injury prevention

A back rest at Orthotech and Physical Rehabilitation International costs between Shs80,000 to Shs150,000, but elsewhere, it depends on the type and manufacturer and air rings, which act as shock absorbers cost approximately Shs100,000.

Precautions to take while travelling
When travelling, Gulooba says one should make stopovers every after three hours to stretch legs for approximately 10 minutes and also change sitting positions after every 30 minutes or walk around when they are able to.
“If one has ever had deep venous thrombosis, one needs to take medicine like anti-coagulants to keep the blood thin so that it doesn’t clot. People who have never had deep venous thrombosis but are at risk also need to take anti-coagulants. If someone is pregnant, then it’s aisable not to travel,” Gulooba retorts.
He however says deep venous thrombosis is common with people who travel by air because they travel distances more than three hours and that the effects using road transport applies to all other means.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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