Practice Caution with Heavy Luggage this Summer

From the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

Carrying heavy luggage during summer travel can be brutal on bones and joints, so whether traveling by plane, train or automobile, know your limits and practice safety first.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 75,543 luggage related injuries in 2013, an increase of more than 20,000 when compared to 2012.

While many of the injuries associated with carrying heavy luggage are minor, they can be painful and can take several days or even weeks to recover. Travelers can avoid common neck, back and shoulder strains and other injuries altogether by cautiously handling their luggage.

•When purchasing new luggage, look for a sturdy, light piece with wheels and a handle.luggage

•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 lifting luggage onto a platform or into a car trunk, stand alongside of it, bend at your knees, not your waist, lift with your leg muscles, then grasp the handle and straighten up. Once you have lifted your luggage, hold it close to your body.

•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 on the luggage and push it to the back of the compartment.

•Do not twist your body when lifting and carrying luggage. Instead, point your toes in the direction you are headed, and then turn your entire body in that direction.

•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 climbingthe stairs or, better yet, take the elevator with heavy luggage.

This article was published in the July-September 2015 edition of ”FYI from OCI”, a quarterly publication created by the Orthopedic Center of Illinois. To see the full publication, click HERE.

Put Some Spring in Your Step for Better Health!

By Theresa Delvo, Physical Therapist
Director of Rehabilitation, Midwest Rehab

Walking to Improve Running460The weather has changed and now you’re ready to get out of the house. Walking is currently the most commonly reported form of physical activity among U.S. adults and is one of the simplest ways to exercise. It only requires a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing and desire! Just a few extra steps each day is an easy way to maintain a healthier life.  The American Heart Association recommends at least 30  minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week, at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week, or a combination of the two.

Start off your exercise or walking program slow and easy. For many, this means head out the door, walk for 10 minutes, and walk back. After a week, you’ll be ready to add five minutes to your daily walks. Continue to add five minutes until you are walking 30 minutes per day. When you have walked 30 minutes, you can increase your intensity by increasing your speed.

Checking your heart rate enables you to gauge the difficulty of your walk. You can check your heart rate by manually checking your pulse, or using a heart rate monitor. Most recommendations suggest beginning at 70-75% of your maximum heart rate (See Table 1). Keep in mind the standards of the traditional heart rate formulas do not fit everyone. You can also use the “talk test” to gauge your walking intensity. Talking pace means you have elevated breathing, but you can still carry a conversation. If you have been inactive for a long period of time or have any medical conditions, please consult with your physician before starting a new exercise program.


Remember to watch your posture. Walk tall, hold your head up, tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks and swing your arms. To help prevent injury, warm up first, walking slowly the first five minutes and end your walk with stretching.  When you begin a fitness program, some muscle soreness the day after you exercise or walk is typical. Soreness is expected to go away with regular exercise, although if you experience pain or swelling, contact your doctor or physical therapist.

When picking out shoes, there are specific recommendations depending on the individual’s foot type, though general recommendations are to make sure the shoes fit properly and are comfortable. They should be wide enough for the toes to move freely, the heel should not slip and about a thumb width between your toes and the end of your shoe. Another suggestion is to go shoe shopping at the end of the day or after your walk when your feet might be slightly swollen. Replacing your shoes every 6-9 months or about every 250 miles is recommended to prevent pain or injury.

Staying motivated and developing a habit are the keys to a successful fitness or exercise program. Having a walking partner will help with accountability, and tracking your time and distance can also be beneficial. This can be as simple as using a journal to or as advanced as using one of the new technology products. Fitness apps for smart devices have become very popular and can track your progress, provide walking routes, track your distance and calories burned.

Start your spring off on the right foot and remember if you have questions on beginning a walking or exercise program, the Physical Therapists at Midwest Rehab at OCI can assess your movement, strength and flexibility and develop an exercise program to help you meet your fitness goals. Give us a call at 217.547.9108

DelvoTTheresa received her bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy from Washington University in St. Louis. She has more than 25 years of therapy experience, primarily in the outpatient setting. Her professional interests focus on orthopedics, education and training to industry, workplace injury reduction and industrial rehabilitation.


This article was published in the April-June 2014 edition of ”FYI from OCI”, a quarterly publication created by the Orthopedic Center of Illinois. To see the full publication, click HERE.

Avoid Injury When Clearing Snow

SnowShovelPic_1With heavy snowfall predicted this weekend for the Midwest, protect yourself with the tips provided below from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission:

  • In 2011, more than 125,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries sustained while shoveling or otherwise removing ice and snow manually.
  • In that same year, more than 18,600 were injured using snow throwers or blowers.Types of injuries can include sprains and strains, particularly in the back and shoulders, as well as lacerations and finger amputations.

Recommendations to help you stay safe while clearing snow:

  • Check with your doctor. Because this activity places high stress on the heart, speak with your physician first. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, consider hiring someone to remove the snow.
  • Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. It is also important to wear the appropriate hat, as well as mittens or gloves and thick, warm socks. Take a break if you feel yourself getting too hot or too cold.
  • See what you are shoveling/snow blowing. Make sure that your hat or scarf does not block your vision. Expect icy patches and uneven surfaces. Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
  • Clear snow early and often. Begin when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid trying to clear packed, heavy snow. If the snow is wet, lift smaller, lighter amounts with each shovel load.


  • Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, seek emergency care, such as by calling 9-1-1.
  • Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Consider buying a shovel that is specially designed to prevent too much stooping. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage.
  • Push the snow instead of lifting it,as much as you can. If you must lift, take small amounts of snow, and lift it with your legs: Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift by straightening your legs, without bending at the waist. Then walk to where you want to dump the snow; holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side.This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.

Snow blowing:

  • Never stick your hands or feet in the snow blower!If snow becomes impacted, stop the engine and wait at least five seconds. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Beware of the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off.
  • Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running. Shut off the engine if you must walk away from the machine.
  • Watch the snow blower cord. If you are operating an electric snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times, so you do not trip and fall.
  • Add fuel before starting the snow blower. Never add fuel when the engine is running or hot. Do not operate the machine in an enclosed area.
  • Read the instruction manual. Prior to using a snow blower, read the instruction manual for specific safety hazards, unfamiliar features, and whenever attempting to repair or maintain the snow blower.