Luggage Safety

It’s that time of the year again. People are packing their bags and loading their cars, airports are bustling, and the roads are busier than ever. Holiday travel is about to be in full swing, and we want you to stay safe!

Holiday travel can mean long lines and hurried sprints through sprawling terminals. It also can mean neck, wrist, back and shoulder pain, and even injury, from carrying and lifting heavy luggage.

“We see a lot of travel-related injuries – rotator cuff wrist injuries, lumbar and spine injuries, and ankle sprain fractures, as well,” says Dr. Michael Hussey, shoulder and elbow specialist at Arkansas Specialty Orthopaedics.

In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 72,900 luggage-related injuries in 2014 (the most recent year for which such figures are available).

To ensure that you arrive at your holiday destination free from pain, it’s important to know how to optimally choose, pack, carry and lift your luggage.

“You want to try to pack as lightly as you can,” Dr. Hussey says. “Just because you have extra room in your luggage, doesn’t mean you have to pack it until it’s about to explode.”

He suggests you approach lifting heavy bags and suitcases as you would a workout: “Face your body toward your luggage, bend with your knees, keep your back straight, and lift with your legs,” he instructs.

To avoid luggage-related injury and pain, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers these additional safety tips:

  • When purchasing new luggage, look for a sturdy, light piece with wheels and a handle.
  • Pack lightly. When possible, pack items in a few smaller bags instead of one large luggage piece. Many airlines restrict carry-on luggage weighing more than 40 pounds.
  • When placing luggage in an overhead compartment, first lift it onto the top of the seat. Then, place your hands on the left and right sides of the suitcase and 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 atop the luggage and push it to the back of the compartment.
  • Do not rush when lifting or carrying a suitcase. If it is too heavy or an awkward shape, get help.
  • 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.
  • If using a backpack, make sure it has two padded and adjustable shoulder straps. Choose one with several compartments to secure various-sized items. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder does not allow weight to be distributed evenly, which can cause muscle strain.
  • Carry – don’t drag – your luggage when climbing the stairs (or better yet, take the elevator).

As you pack up this holiday season to head out of town, keep these helpful tips in mind and travel safely!

In his practice, Dr. Hussey devotes his passion and skills to the treatment of all complex shoulder and elbow disorders, ranging from sports injuries to osteoarthritis. He has authored several book chapters related to injuries of the shoulder and elbow. He also serves as a consultant reviewer for the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery.