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Helpful Hints for When Airplanes Cause You Back Pain

As much as we all look forward to visiting family and friends during the holidays (or any other time), if you live more than a car-ride away, then there’s a good chance your travel will include a flight. And if you suffer from back pain, that can be a real problem.

Unless you have an upgraded seat, flying these days generally means sitting in a cramped position for far too long. It can cause tense muscles, aches and pains, and if you suffer from a herniated disc or sciatica, that pain can quickly turn to agony.

The good news is that there are several things you can to minimize your risk of back pain while traveling. It just takes a bit or planning ahead.

Here are our top tips designed to maximize your comfort and minimize your pain:

  • The absolute most important thing for you to do to ease back pain on a long flight is to get up and move around. If you can, when booking your flight select an aisle seat so that you don’t have to ask your seatmate to move, then watch carefully and take advantage of every opportunity to move around your cabin. Though flight attendants tend to prefer that people stay out of the aisles, if you take a moment to alert them to your back problems, you will likely find them more accommodating and understanding. Likewise, you can ask those who are seated near you to help you put your carry-on bag into the overhead compartment.
  • There are some wonderful, portable products available at your local pharmacy that allow you to use cold or heat therapy easily and unobtrusively. The best way to use them is to switch back and forth. Use heat when you first sit down so that it keeps your muscles loose, then if you start to feel pain after sitting for a while, use cold backs to ease inflammation.
  • If you’re able to recline your seat, do so. Airplane seats have been adjusted so that there’s not a whole lot of movement available, but even a slight change in angle can take pressure off of your discs.
  • Bring along a cervical neck pillow or lumbar back support. Many of these items are inflatable so that they don’t take up room in your carry-on. When using these pillows, the best way to position them is to place them between the seat back and your lower back. This prevents you from slouching and maintains the natural curve of your back, avoiding the potential for back spasms. Don’t have a pillow? In a pinch, a sweater or jacket can be rolled up and put to good use, or ask the flight attendant if she has a pillow or blanket.
  • Drink plenty of water. You would be amazed at what a difference staying hydrated can make – or how much worse being dehydrated can make you feel.

Back pain doesn’t have to be a regular part of your life. Contact our office today to set up a consultation with our spine specialists.