The travel accessory I never leave home without
Dr. Ho and I go everywhere together. He is always in my hand luggage, backpack, or even my shirt pocket. Frequently, when I am domestic bound, he is in the glove compartment of my car or in my briefcase.
I have even been known to attend lah dee da functions with Dr. Ho cleverly concealed on my person. And I have caused airport security people to occasionally give me that second electronic and hands-on pat down search when Dr. Ho and I are wending our way to the vacuous world of the departure lounge.
However, Dr. Ho and I are inseparable whenever I am on the move. As a travel journalist who knows very well the aches and pains that travel can create, and as a someone who has had the chance to discover just about every travel trick in the book, Dr. Ho is gentle on my mind … and my muscles.
Despite what you may think…
This is not an advertorial nor a five-minute quickie on The Shopping Channel; although you too can meet and greet Dr. Ho on the latter infotainment and commerce medium. This is just a friendly travel tip, especially to those who love to travel but hate the twinges and spasms which are to travel as metaphysical anguish is to aging.
The world according to Ho
Dr. Ho? I knew him when he was just a kid. Actually I knew him when he was a relatively unknown quantity; a high energy chiropractor with ambition, a major marketer-to-be with obvious business smarts, a pragmatic health care provider who conceived an ingenious marketing venture (which by the way I suspect has made him very rich and famous), and a nice guy who decided it was time to put a relatively simple and cost-effective health care tool in the hands of the patient, or the consumer, depending on your point of view.
In some respects, what Dr. Ho did was akin to dentists handing out toothbrushes, or teachers books, or King John the Magna Carta. It was a simple consumer-friendly formula — and still is.
Why didn’t I think of this before?
In addition to indulging in global and domestic peregrinations whenever I can, over the years I have also been a denizen of the horse world: bred them; birthed them (with my own two hands); backed them (one does not “break” a horse); trained them; sat up with them many a night; suffered the mutual and reciprocal slings and arrows of aches, pains, sprains and worse (it goes with the territory); came off them (one does not “fall off a horse”); and (sadly) from time to time had to say good bye to them.
And for years an alternative therapy for muscle problems in our equine bag of tricks was a form of acupuncture performed by a veterinarian who used this neat little machine that sent electric stimulation into the offending muscle through electrodes attached to long thin needles.
Imagine that! Traditional Chinese medicine meets the horse world. And being the relatively simple creatures they are, horses generally respond well to the treatment. As a matter of fact it has a sedating effect on them; it’s all about endorphins.
And how many times have I stood there holding the horse while he or she got an internal muscle massage via a gentle current of electricity; and said to myself, “Boy that must feel good. I sure wish I had one of those little machines to use on my aching muscles.”
Well, lo and behold and voila!
Along came Dr. Ho
Initially he was operating out of one of those small all-purpose units you see in multiplex industrial plazas; and he was within 10 minutes walking distance of where I live. It was a family business and everyone seemed to be pitching in.
So after a particularly bad bout of equestrian lower back blues (and numerous costly visits to various health care practitioners who did stuff to me that gave temporary relief but ultimately was as effective as whistling in the wind), I did what every equestrian eventually learns to do; I took matters into my own hands.
After ruling out a visit to Lourdes, I went in search of therapeutic procedures I could perform on myself…. goddammit! (In the background you just might hear Frank Sinatra crooning “I did it my way…”)
No sooner had the quest begun and …
Hello Dr. Ho!
Simple, sensible, and portable
Dr. Ho does not work in mysterious ways; it’s all quite simple science. First let’s talk about muscles.
As you all know, they get overworked and neglected sometimes, and when they do they start to complain. Deprived of their normal regular and rhythmic stretching, or when they get overstretched, the fibres in them can start to get all crisscrossed like a bunch of cranky relatives at a family dinner. And then the tension builds up until you get muscles that are overwrought and oxygen-deprived.
That leads to a build-up of lactic acid (a chemical compound that plays a role in several biochemical processes); and in normal metabolism and exercise, lactic acid just comes and goes, doing its thing, minding its own business. But in beleaguered muscles, like those in your neck or lower back which (despite your best efforts to make them comfortable in the cheap seats on overnight flights) are verging on insurrection.
That’s also when the lactic acid builds up, which only makes muscle tension all the more difficult to reverse. (Ever try to reason with a revolting adolescent who is convinced he or she has been hard done by?) And then if one of those tiny muscles in your neck or lower back revolts and has a hissy fit (also known as a spasm), that initial cry of “No way José!” can then produce a chain reaction of muscle spasms in medium to large muscles, and you’ve got the French Revolution all over again.
So now you are in what is, let’s face it, hyper muscle distress. Oh my aching back! Excuse me, flight attendant, could I have a little shiatsu-like massage on my tense shoulder muscles and upper back, especially those just next to the shoulder blades? No? How about some more pretzels then?
So now is the time for Dr. Ho
I usually start with Mode One, at a fairly low level of intensity, just to kind of get things started. Then after 10 minutes of that, I move on to Mode Two which is a little more vigorous, and depending on how high I turn the dial up — and my mood — the alternating internal electrically-stimulated contracting and relaxing of the offending muscles can give visions of Brunehilda taking me for a Ride with the Valkyries. But because I am now such a pro, I like it! On Brunehilda! Go for it babe!
Depending on how self-indulgent I allow myself to be, I then move on to Mode Three which is the Zen mode, and the Mode that gets me humming:
I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’ garden in the shade
He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been
In his octopus’ garden in the shade.
And if I have followed the gentle, sensible Dr. Ho regimen carefully, my hypertense muscles are now starting to relent, to relax, to let go, to become warm and taffy-like again; and I am feeling more and more endorphinized.
And that’s when I get the most inspired.
So with no further ado…
… I will turn the soapbox over to my friend and travel mate Dr. Ho. I’ll let the man himself massage your mind.
Ladies and gentlemen, how about a big hand for Dr. Ho.
When I get a chance, I will pass on some of my other tried and true travel tips: the contents of my emergency medical kit; the two wee flashlights I always travel with (one battery-operated, the other wind-up); the absolutely-I-swear-to-God-no-iron shirts; the all-in-one converter and plug adaptors for the world of travel in which there is little standardization; the nifty battery-operated electric shaver (for beards or legs, or both); the noise-cancelling fold-up headset for seat-back movies and to discourage chatty passengers; and other stuff.
If I forget, remind me will ya?