Among all the joy of the holidays, seeing loved ones, and spending cherished time together, there is a painful reality for some: lower back pain. For those who suffer from this painful yet all-too-common ailment, the thought of cramming themselves into a tight, stiff airplane seat for hours on end and subjecting themselves to pain—or more pain—is enough to keep them grounded. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to make flying more comfortable.
Be smart about booking
You may just want to get to wherever you’re going as quickly as possible…but is that the best strategy? “Some travelers prefer to minimize their time in the air by booking nonstop flights whenever possible,” said Smarter Travel. “Other back pain sufferers find that it’s actually more comfortable to split their trip into multiple shorter legs, broken up by layovers in which they can stretch and stroll around the airport. Which strategy is right for you depends on the total length of the trip and your own body’s limitations.”
Make your seat more comfortable
If you’re not able to upgrade your seat to first class or business class, where you’ll have more room to move around and will generally be more comfortable, do what you can to improve the seat you have. “For many travelers, economy seats force your lower back into unnatural, stressful position,” said Travelers United. “Bring a back roll or pillow to put behind your back to help keep your spine straight and prevent slouching.”
Get an aisle seat, if possible
That way you can get up to use the restroom without having to stretch, twist, and contort your body while climbing over a sleeping neighbor. It will also make it easier to accomplish the next one…
Experts recommend getting up at least every hour and walking and/or stretching. This can keep your muscles from getting too tight, and can also prevent blood clots.
Stay on top of your workout routine
“This is especially key in the week or so leading up to your trip,” said Conde Nast Traveler. “If you’ve been inactive for a long period of time, your back muscles will be more likely to spasm when you’re forced to sit scrunched into tight quarters.
Check your bags
Having to haul a heavy bag over your head into the overhead bin is not going to help your lower back pain. If you have a weighty bag you’re bringing on board, “Don’t be afraid to tell your flight attendant about your back and ask for assistance stowing it in the overhead bin,” said Travelers United.
And then drink some more. Flying can be dehydrating, and, let’s face it: you probably don’t drink enough when you’re on solid ground. “Chronic spine and back problems are directly related to dehydration,” said Water Purifiers. “Our body is mainly made up of water, which acts as a lubricant for the bones. The spinal vertebrae has shock absorbing discs. The tough outer ring of the vertebrae is filled with a gel like substance (nucleus pulposus) is mainly made up of water. When you keep moving throughout the day, water squeezes out of the discs. The discs rehydrate at night, which is possible only if your body is well hydrated. If you don’t drink enough water throughout the day, your body will find it difficult to rehydrate the discs of the spine and eventually lead to back pain.”
That means bringing any medication you might need on board. You don’t want to end up in a back spasm situation without pain killers, whether they’re the over-the-counter variety or those that come with a doctor’s prescription.
Don’t leave without a travel pillow
Of course, choosing the right one could prove maddening since you can find one almost anywhere. You may have to try a few to find the perfect travel pillow that really gives you the support you’re looking for. Travel + Leisure has a great list that breaks down multiple travel situations and assigns a neck pillow to each (Best for the Window Seat, Best for Sensitive Sleepers, etc.).
If you need treatment for lower back pain, contact DISC Spine Institute, leading DFW disc and spine centers and experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain. Treating back pain is easier than ever, with minimally invasive treatments that mean short hospital stays, and shorter recoveries.