A Doctor Tells Us Which Type Of Luggage To Use To Avoid The Dreaded Suitcase Elbow

Traveling can be stressful and exhausting. The last thing you need is to deal with the pain and discomfort of suitcase elbow. In an exclusive interview, Dr. Jason Singh, Physician and Chief Medical Officer at One Oak Medical, sheds light on this issue and provides valuable insights for preventing it.

"Suitcase elbow is medically termed cubital tunnel syndrome and is an inflammatory process," Dr. Singh explains. "It happens at the inner aspect of the elbow caused by repeated carrying of a suitcase or bag with the elbow flexed."

Dr. Singh explains that the way people carry luggage can cause the ulnar nerve to rub against the inside of the elbow, which can lead to swelling and damage over time. Prolonged pressure on the nerve may also cause cubital tunnel syndrome. For example, sitting with your elbow bent for long periods during a flight or car ride or leaning on your elbows when sitting can put pressure on the ulnar nerve. Dr. Singh's recommendations can help you avoid the dreaded suitcase elbow and maintain a pain-free travel experience.

Luggage tips for avoiding suitcase elbow

Travelers, whether frequent or occasional, face the risk of developing suitcase elbow if they carry their luggage improperly, according to insights from Dr. Singh. To avoid this, he advises that the best luggage is a suitcase with wheels that can be pulled instead of one that is carried. This way, your arm can stay extended, which prevents the ulnar nerve from being compressed. It's essential to keep your elbow extended while rolling a suitcase, whether it has two or four wheels. 

"The key is to pay attention to arm positioning and taking breaks when carrying any bag," advises Dr. Singh. "In general, wider, fixed handles distribute weight more evenly across the hand and wrist, which is better. Of course, roller bags are preferable to duffle bags, which don't have a handle option."

To make your travel experience pain-free and ensure your well-being, there are other tips and recommendations that can help you avoid the discomfort of cubital tunnel syndrome.

Other strategies for preventing cubital tunnel syndrome

It's important to be aware of warning signs like numbness or tingling in the ring and pinky fingers, which could indicate ulnar nerve irritation. According to Dr. Singh, individual factors like existing elbow conditions, body size, and nerve sensitivity can also play a role in causing this condition. Along with adopting ergonomic approaches when handling your bags, Dr. Singh suggests that travelers take frequent breaks while carrying luggage. So find a comfortable place to kick back or even take a nap at the airport and let your elbows relax.

If you travel frequently, there are other things you can do to prevent cubital tunnel syndrome. For example, try to keep your arm straight during long periods of sitting, such as during a flight or car ride. Avoid leaning on your elbows and use a headset or headphones instead of holding a phone to your ear. Regular exercise can help maintain good muscle tone and flexibility. And, of course, if you have persistent pain or numbness in your elbow or hand, it's important to seek medical advice. For more information about Dr. Singh, find him on his TikTok or Instagram, or check out his profile at One Oak Medical.