Plane flights can be taxing on the very best of backs. Unless you’re traveling in first class or business class, you’ll be stuck in cattle class like the rest of us. The uncomfortable chairs, small legroom and awkward sleeping positions, can all contribute to back pain.

Here is a list of things to do on a flight that can reduce pain and discomfort:

1. Wake up and stretch your body. You may have noticed passengers in the past that stay seated or sleep through an entire flight. This may have been you! However this isn’t healthy for the body. Sitting in the same position for prolonged periods puts a great deal of stress on your spine, let alone not moving. The other risk is prolonged sitting on a flight increases your chances of suffering from  Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

When the body is put in a position for a sustained period of longer than 15 minutes, the ligaments and tendons surrounding the joint are deformed and a state of biomechanical stress called ‘creep’ occurs. This changes the viscoelastic principles of the area and when it comes to the body, can cause the rotation of the pelvis, or the pelvis tilting causing the joints of the spine to be much more susceptible to damage. Do some gentle stretches and keep your body moving as much as possible.

2. Scheduling flights that aren’t fully booked. Try to book a flight for a time of day when the plane is likely to be less full. With no one sitting next to you it will be easier to retrieve your belongings from under the seat in front if you without twisting and straining your lower back.

3. Support your spine whilst sitting. Bring a back roll or ask for extra pillows to put behind your back to keep your spine straight and prevent slouching. This will alleviate pain and pressure. If you are on the shorter side, bring something to prop up your feet; you want to keep your knees at a right angle.

4. Drink plenty of water. Avoid dehydration on flights. In an airline cabin the air is usually much dryer than it is on land. Drink some water before the flight so your body will be prepared for the dry conditions on the airplane. Then take plenty of bottled water on board if you can, to drink throughout the duration of the flight.

5. Walk to the carousel after flight before picking up bags. You have been sitting already for way to long, get up and move.

6. If you are in economy, try for the most prized ‘exit row’ otherwise an aisle seat is next best. Aisle seats give you more wiggle room and that little more freedom. Having this freedom allows you to get up more and move about. Try to stretch and move every 20 to 30 minutes, or at least every hour. Walk to the back of the plane, do heel raises, side bending stretching and marching in place can reduce stiffness in muscles.

7. Lastly, if by chance you do have back pain before your flight, bring a letter from your chiropractor or other health care professional and alert the crew prior to boarding that you have a back condition, and that you may need to move more often than other passengers.

Using a combination of the tips above should make travel as easy on your back as possible. Bring soothing music, a good book, do some deep breathing. Anything that eases your mind and calms your body will help make that trip a little more enjoyable and painless.

If you would like more information or would like to book an appointment at Neurohealth Chiropractic – please call the clinic on 9905 9099 or email us admin@neurohealthchiro.com.au or fill in the contact form from our website www.neurohealthchiro.com.au

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This article is written by Dr. Steven Cannon, Chiropractor – Neurohealth Chiropractic