Posted by | February 18 | 2020

Back Pain on an Airplane? Quick Tips to Alleviate the Pain

Whether you’re travelling for a work conference or a vacation, sitting for hours on a plane isn’t something anyone looks forward to. The small seats, cramped space, and the length of sitting time can make anyone feel uncomfortable—but for those with chronic back pain, this can feel like torture. Here are some important tips that can help you alleviate your back pain on a plane and how physiotherapy for back pain could be a long-term treatment option for you.

Strategically Schedule Your Flight

For many people with back pain, flying is one of the most difficult things to do. Being cramped into a small economy-class seat for hours can do a number on your spine. When you are planning to take a flight, consider the schedule that will be the least stressful and crowded for you. It may be best to take a flight when there are less people on board, limiting the down time between connections or layovers, and planning an afternoon flight rather that one that disturbs your night sleep.

Contact the Airline

It may help to communicate with the airline ahead of time to inform them of your medical condition. If you give them a few weeks’ notice, they may be able to offer you wheelchair assistance or early boarding. They may also offer you an escort to carry your luggage and lift it into the overhead compartment for you. Special shuttles and elevator platforms may also be provided to you for boarding.

Pack Light and Get Wheels

When packing for a long trip, it’s difficult to be a minimalist and go light. Each item you need to take adds weight to what you’ll be holding or dragging around the airport. If packing less isn’t an option, consider putting more items in your checked bag and taking a lighter carry-on.

This tip can also help when you’re at your destination. Don’t carry a heavy backpack around all day, but instead, pack light and tighten the straps so the pack is supported as much as possible by your body. This will make it feel lighter. 

Bring Pain Medication with You on the Flight

If you have prescription or over-the-counter pain medication that helps with your back injury, consider taking it an hour before your flight so it is in your system by the time you get seated. You can also carry them with you in a clear plastic bag and have them ready at all times.

Bring Accessories

Frequent travellers know all about how to make their experience more comfortable. They bring accessories, take time to walk around, and do other things that help them loosen up and feel relaxed. To help ease lower back pain, you need support behind your lower back. You can roll up a towel, place a few pillows there, or take a special seat attachment. This will prevent slouching and keep your spine straight. Be sure that whatever you plan to bring has been tested out at home. Make sure you are comfortable with it before bringing it along.

Manage Your Stress

Stress and pain go hand in hand. Since flying can be a stressful and tense activity for many people, it’s important to do your best to be early and prepared. Arrive a few hours before your flight so you can get through the check-in process and allow plenty of time to settle down before your board.

Once you get on the plane, put on your headphones and enjoy your favourite relaxing or uplifting playlist, or read a good book. You can even watch a movie after the plane has taken off and gotten to the right altitude. When you feel tense, take deep breaths, focus on positive thoughts, and sip some water to calm your nerves.

Here are some extra tips:

  • Recline your seat to give you more space and get more comfortable.
  • Breathe slowly to relax your muscles and nerves; visualize each part of your body calming down.
  • Stare out at the clouds and scenery if you have a window seat and allow yourself to daydream.
  • Strike up a quiet conversation with the person beside you if they seem interested.
  • Bring something to fiddle with on the plant like a crossword, a puzzle object, or a squishy ball to help you release your tension.

Watch Your Posture

Posture is important even while sitting, so try these tips to maintain good posture:

  • Keep your legs positioned at a right angle when you sit (with your knees right in front of you, feet flat on the ground).
  • If you have long legs, request to sit in an exit row or bulkhead seat.

Move around During the Flight

Staying still for too long puts stress on the spin and can exacerbate back pain. You can do stretches in your seat like neck rolls, raising your hands above your head, or leaning forward to give your lower back a stretch. When the seatbelt sign is off, take a moment to walk to the back and do some light stretches. This can help improve flexibility in your back and ease any stiffness or discomfort.

Visit a Physiotherapist if It Gets Serious

If your back pain is getting in the way of you enjoying your life, our physiotherapists at St. Clair and Dufferin can help.

At MedRehab Group, our team of professionals can help you deal with your chronic pain, back pain, sports injuries, and other post-operation challenges. We serve clients in Brampton, Georgetown, Hamilton, Toronto, Richmond Hill/Maple, Vaughan, Woodbridge, and Pickering. Contact us at 1-888-409-4058 to learn more about our physiotherapy clinic and book your first consultation.


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