How To Fly With Back Pain

Travel Sleep

Travel Sleep

If you’re heading on vacation anytime soon – or making plans to do so – one of the things to consider is the effect that flying can have on your back.

Why does my back hurt when flying?

Cramped legroom, uncomfortable seating, and being confined to a small space all contribute to lower back pain during and after a flight. Not to mention lifting luggage in/out of trunks, overhead compartments, and out of baggage claim!

And when a substantial 88% of people experience increased back pain following a flight, I wanted to share 3 simple tips that will help support your back and make traveling a lot more comfortable when jetting off on your holidays…

Tips to Flying with Back pain

First off, if you’re going on a long-haul flight – schedule your flights carefully.

Flying is the trickiest part of traveling for many people with back pain; being stuffed into a cramped seat for hours on end can leave you feeling crippled.

Some people like to minimize their time in the air by booking direct flights whenever possible, which also helps reduce the number of times you have to lift your carry-on into the overhead bin too!

So, if you’re on a long-haul flight, and you’re spending 5+ hours in the air, try to find a direct flight to minimize travel time and be sure to get up plenty of times, or stand at the back for most of it when your seatbelt sign is off.

This next tip might seem self-explanatory, but when we’re seated on a flight – how often do we get up and move?

Unless you sleep well on planes and plan to nod off for the entire flight, you’ll probably want to request an aisle seat for your journey. This will allow you to easily stand up frequently and move around the cabin without disturbing your seatmates.

Plus, sitting too long in the same position causes tightness and pain.

You can do some simple stretches in the back of the plane, and if you’re unable to get up, you can do some stretches in your seat such as neck rolls or raising your hands high above your head for a good stretch.

Next, are you taking a carry-on case? If so, do your best to pack light.

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Every extra item you squeeze into your case is one more thing you’ll have to hoist up into the overhead bin or drag through the airport.

Make it easier on yourself by packing less and checking in any bags you know you won’t be able to lift easily over your head.

This same advice applies for when you reach your destination too – when you’re out exploring, take a small backpack that distributes weight evenly rather than using a shoulder bag that places unnecessary pressure on one side of your body.

If you must carry a single shoulder bag, switch it regularly from one side to the other throughout the day to make it easier on your body.

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Nick Hunter, PT, DPT
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