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Fill This Holiday Season with Memories, Not Injuries

Orthopaedic surgeons offer traveling safety tips

ROSEMONT, Ill., Nov. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tense shoulders, or pains in the neck and back are the all too familiar complaints of travelers who carry heavy luggage. As thousands of Americans gear up for travel this holiday season, orthopaedic surgeons share safety tips to reduce travel related injuries.


"Back pain is very common and affects millions of Americans," said orthopaedic surgeon and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson Brett Taylor, MD. "While there are many reasons for back pain, twisting or lifting improperly can be a major cause. For that reason it's important to know what to do and what not to do while traveling with heavy bags or luggage."


According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were more than 59,400 luggage-related injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices and clinics in 2011.

  • Of those injuries, more than 25,900 injuries were sprains and strains;
  • More than 26,300 were back injuries;
  • Approximately 2,060 were neck injuries

Consider using AAOS's travel/luggage safety tips to avoid incorrectly lifting luggage from baggage claim carousels, overhead or under-seat compartments, carrying a heavy suitcase for an extended period of time or lifting and holding a bag improperly.


  • Choose the right luggage: When purchasing new luggage, look for a sturdy, light piece with wheels and a handle.
  • Pack lightly: When possible, pack items in smaller bags instead of one large luggage piece.
  • Lifting luggage in overhead compartments: Take care when placing luggage in an overhead compartment. First, lift it onto the top of the seat. Then, with hands situated on the left and right sides of the suitcase, lift it up. If your luggage has wheels, make sure the wheel side is set in the compartment first. Once wheels are inside, put one hand on top of the luggage and push it to the back of the compartment. To remove the luggage, reverse this process.
  • Lifting properly: When lifting luggage, stand alongside of it, bend at your knees, not your waist, lift with your leg muscles, then grasp the handle and straighten up (do not twist the spine).  Once you have lifted your luggage, hold it close to your body.
  • Carrying luggage: Carry light pieces in both hands rather than one heavy item in a hand off to the side. This can decrease stress to the spine. Lift not drag luggage down stairs.
  • Avoid rushing: Do not rush when lifting or carrying a suitcase. If your bag is too heavy or an awkward shape, get help.
  • Check heavy luggage: Do not carry heavier pieces of luggage for long periods of time.  If it is too heavy, make sure to check luggage when traveling rather than carrying it on a plane, train or bus.
  • Correctly carrying backpacks: If using a backpack, make sure it has two padded and adjustable shoulder straps. Choose one with several compartments to secure various-sized items, packing the heavier things low and towards the center. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder does not allow weight to be distributed evenly, which can cause muscle strain.

For more tips on safely carrying luggage visit

With more than 37,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, ( or ( is the premier not-for-profit organization that provides education programs for orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals, champions the interests of patients and advances the highest quality of musculoskeletal health. Orthopaedic surgeons and the Academy are the authoritative sources of information for patients and the general public on musculoskeletal conditions, treatments and related issues.

More than one in four Americans have bone or joint health problems, making them the greatest cause of lost work days in the U.S. When orthopaedic surgeons restore mobility and reduce pain, they help people get back to work and to independent, productive lives. Orthopaedic surgeons keep this "Nation in Motion." To learn more about A Nation in Motion campaign, or to read hundreds of patient stories or to submit your own story, visit

Like AAOS on Facebook (, and follow us on Twitter (

SOURCE American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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