Long hours on a flight or in a car can take quite a toll on the back, especially if you are already susceptible to lower back pain. In order to comfortably travel while not sacrificing the integrity of your lower back, it is important that you follow several tips and tricks relating to posture, support, and stretching. Continue reading to learn more about how you can protect your spine when traveling!
Are you one of the millions of people who suffer from back pain?
If so, you’re probably here hoping to figure out how to arrive at your destination as happy and pain-free as possible.
As usual, I’ve got you covered.
Read on for expert tips that will transform your journey and bring comfort back to your adventures whether you’re in the air or on the road.
So, fasten your seatbelts, adjust your posture, and get ready to embark on a voyage towards a more enjoyable and pain-free travel experience.
TIPS FOR COMFORT WHEN AIR TRAVELING WITH BACK PAIN
Air travel can be a daunting experience, especially if you suffer from back pain. The long hours of sitting in cramped seats and limited movement doesn’t help.
Besides that, the cabin pressure in airplanes can impact your back pain too, especially if you have an underlying back condition.
When the aircraft ascends, the cabin pressure decreases, which can lead to the expansion of gases in body tissues, including those your spinal discs.
This expansion can increase pressure on nerves and contribute to pain. But, with proper planning and a few helpful tips, you can minimise the impact on your back and make your journey more bearable.
GENERAL BACK PAIN FLYING TIPS
MAINTAIN GOOD POSTURE
Be mindful of your posture throughout the flight. Sit with your back against the seat, shoulders relaxed, and feet flat on the floor. Avoid slouching or crossing your legs to minimise strain on your lower back.
STAY HYDRATED AND PRACTICE HEALTHY HABITS
Dehydration can worsen muscle tension and increase discomfort, so staying hydrated during air travel is essential. Drink plenty of water and avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine, as they can contribute to dehydration.
PACK A LUMBAR PILLOW
Bring a lumbar pillow to provide support and maintain a healthy spinal curvature during the flight. Place it between your lower back and the seat to reduce strain and promote proper alignment. This will help in general, especially if you have either sciatica or a herniated disc.
TIPS FOR FLYING WITH SCIATICA
CHOOSE AN AISLE SEAT
When booking your flight, opt for an aisle seat whenever possible. This allows you to stretch your legs and move around more freely, reducing the pressure on your sciatic nerve.
USE HEAT OR COLD THERAPY
Before the flight, apply a heating pad or a cold pack to your lower back to help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. If you don’t have either, travel with some Deep Heat as it does help back pain. You can also consider using heat patches during the flight for ongoing relief.
PERFORM GENTLE STRETCHES
During the flight, take breaks to perform gentle stretches that target your lower back and hamstrings. Simple exercises like knee-to-chest stretches and seated spinal twists can help relieve tension and alleviate discomfort. See my full article on exercises and stretches for back pain here.
FLYING WITH A HERNIATED DISC
REQUEST SPECIAL SEATING
Some airlines offer special accommodations for passengers with back pain or disabilities. Contact your airline in advance to inquire about options such as bulkhead seating or seats with extra legroom. These seats provide more space and can help alleviate pressure on your herniated disc.
PACK MEDICATIONS AND PAIN RELIEVERS
Make sure to bring any prescribed medications for your herniated disc on board. It’s also a good idea to carry over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to manage any discomfort during the flight. I discuss OTC and other painkillers for back pain here.
ENGAGE IN GENTLE EXERCISES
Perform gentle exercises and stretches that target your core and lower back to keep your muscles engaged and prevent stiffness. Simple activities like pelvic tilts and seated leg extensions can help alleviate discomfort.
MANAGING LUGGAGE & WAIT TIMES
USE LUGGAGE TROLLEYS
Don’t carry heavy bags or suitcases for extended periods. Instead, make use of luggage trolleys available at airports to reduce strain on your back.
When packing, distribute the weight evenly in your luggage. Place heavier items at the bottom and centre of your bags to maintain balance and prevent unnecessary strain on your back when lifting or carrying them.
TAKE BREAKS AND SIT WHENEVER POSSIBLE
Long wait times can be physically demanding. Take breaks whenever possible and find a seat to rest and relieve pressure on your back. Also, avoid standing for extended periods, as it can strain your back muscles.
CONSIDER PRE-BOOKING ASSISTANCE
If you’ve difficulty standing or walking for long periods, consider pre-booking assistance at the airport. You can get a wheelchair or help navigating through security and boarding processes more comfortably.
CONSIDER A BACKPACK
If you need to carry a bag on your back, choose a backpack with adjustable straps and a padded back. This will help distribute weight evenly and provide better support for your back.