Bloomington / Normal, IL

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Disney, Your Way


By Amy Eicher, PTA, Central Illinois Institute of Balance

Last year, over 20 million people took a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. For many, a trip to the Disney parks is a once-in-a-lifetime experience — one that they will never forget. A lot of time, money, and effort are spent planning any major travel event, and no one wants their vacation to be marked by pain. Research indicates that 80 percent of the American population has experienced low back pain for at least one day in the last year, and 20 percent of those people may find that their pain persists. For those experiencing low back pain that persists or has occasional flare ups, know that you, too, can experience once-in-a-lifetime vacations. Don’t let pain deter you; there are many ways to have a successful vacation.

Physical therapists are experts at helping people move in ways that reduce or prevent pain. Smart travelers will heed the advice of physical therapists and develop some strategies to avoid suffering from aches and pains in order to enjoy your perfect vacation to the fullest.

One of the first things to consider is how much territory you will be covering when you visit Disney World. Consider this: the average American walks about 5,900 steps or less a day — that’s a little over 2½ miles — and an average day at Disney involves walking anywhere between 9 and 14 miles! By implementing a walking program well in advance of your departure date, you can decrease your discomfort by increasing your body’s ability to handle the demands you are asking. The added benefit of general exercise is that it is the best treatment for persistent low-back pain. So, you will be improving your overall health, decreasing your pain, and making your vacation more fun all at the same time.

For those that are unsteady on their feet or have difficulty walking, don’t let that deter you from enjoying your trip. Here are some options to minimize any pain or unsteadiness that you may currently have.

  • Invest in a supportive pair of shoes. Leave the flip-flops for the beach.
  • Consider using a walking aid such as a cane or walking poles.
  • Rent a wheelchair at Guest Services. Even if you don’t normally use one, you can alternate between riding and pushing.
  • Know the park(s) before you go, and plan out the order you will visit shows and attractions. This is often called a “touring plan.” Use Google to see some pre-made park plans.
  • Use Fast Passes to minimize time standing in line.
  • Mix standing for rides with sitting for shows, parades, and meals.
  • Try to schedule trips for the off-season when the lines may be a bit shorter.
  • Take the park at a slower pace. You’ll be surprised at the things you never noticed before.
  • Don’t be afraid to plan some down time back at your hotel to go for a swim or take a rest break.
  • Bring Ziploc® bags for ice. Any of the quick service or sit-down restaurants will be happy to fill it at no charge.
  • If you prefer heat, bring a box of heat wraps available at your local drug store.
  • Drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest.
  • Remember to bring your prescription medications and take them as you have been prescribed.

Planning ahead with strategies to reduce your discomfort will help you enjoy your trip to the fullest. Disney is known for their customer service, so don’t hesitate to ask for assistance, no matter how small your need may seem. So, go take that trip, soak up the sun, enjoy time with loved ones, and most of all, do Disney your way!

Amy Eicher is a Physical Therapy Assistant at Central Illinois Institute of Balance. She enjoys helping people achieve their goals. She also has a deep affection for her family, her dogs, and Disney. For more information on any type of physical therapy need, balance or dizziness problem, you may contact Poonam McAllister at Central Illinois Institute of Balance, 309-663-4900, Their office is located at 211 Landmark Dr, Suite E-3 in Normal.