Woman kneeling in front of Rey walkway in Spain


Travel tips from Europe

Taking a break from Portland life, my husband Joe Alexander, owner of Counseling on Burnside, and I recently spent a week biking through the countryside in Andalusia, Spain. We rode down hills with 10% grades and back up again, stopped for sheep herders crossing with their flocks and looked out over endless groves of olive trees that dotted the landscape. Several national parks were on our self-guided route;

El Torcal  is a monument of shells and exoskeletons laid down during the age of dinosaurs that stands like a village of elders overlooking the Mediterranean. The shapes reminded me of our own bodies that are weathered by the elements and experiences that we encounter. Leaving El Torcal after a long uphill climb we opted to take a taxi to the start of the Caminito del Rey another national heritage site that is a rebuilt walkway 350 feet above the Gaitanes Gorge. The walkway ends after 4 km of dizzying views with a traverse across a steel suspension bridge that sways in the wind as you walk.  Luckily, tapas and vino tinto (a Summer red wine) followed that experience!

Plane rides, lugging suitcases and biking at 3000 feet reminded me that my professional life as a chiropractor at Backs on Burnside will help me survive all of these travel aches and pains! I packed my luggage with kinesiotape, Biofreeze, a Lacrosse/trigger point ball, a travel sized Theracane and even a Graston like tool. Believe me I have used every single one of these devices! And I highly recommend each of these self-help tools to anyone who suffers muscle aches and pains, whether you’re on vacation or in the workaday world.

It’s impossible to ride long distances on a bike or sit for long days at a computer without getting stiff necks, backs and shoulders. Two things have been immensely helpful to me on this trip that I’d like to pass along.

1 .My new favorite exercise the “W”
Three repetitions of this quick exercise 15 to 30 seconds a day will set you on the right path and make neck and shoulder pain much less frequent. You need to find something to stand against that will allow you to extend your arms back without hitting the wall. A pole or a corner will do.

  • Start by standing up straight against the edge you’ve chosen with your heels close to the wall. Make sure your low back is as close as possible to the wall by pulling in your stomach muscles.
  • Then in a very relaxed manner shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and let them drop way back towards your shoulder blades. Do this three times to really unwind and relax your shoulders. On the third repetition let your shoulders drop back and hold them there by squeezing the muscles between your shoulder blades. This will bring the top of your shoulders towards your back and down towards your feet. Pay attention to make sure your lower back is still against the wall.
  • Slowly bend your elbows. This will form the “W”. Hold this position and begin to very slowly raise up your bent arms paying attention to keeping your arms back and your shoulders down. You should feel as though you are lifting heavy weights. You may only be able to bring your arms up 5 to 10° as this is a very difficult exercise to maintain.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds relax and then repeat the three repetitions of shoulder shrugs and begin the exercise again by bending your elbows into a W. Do this three times and then you’re ready for your day!

2. The new travel Theracane.
We have stocked Theracanes at the office for years. They are great tools that can be used to compress trigger points in many areas of the body, shoulders, back, neck, legs and arms etc. Now there is a new travel Theracane that can quickly be broken down into two pieces and fit easily into a suitcase, a briefcase or a desk drawer. Spending five minutes with this tool can work wonders to relieve stress and tension.

We stock most of these products at Backs on Burnside and are happy to show you how to use any of them at your next appointment. Let your Chiropractor know if you have any questions about the products we carry. 

Hasta luego, 
Dr. Gail Karvonen, D.C