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4 Simple Tips for Flying with Back Pain This Summer

Image of an airplane above the clouds with a blue filter applied and minor bokeh effect on the sun.

Why is flying with back pain difficult?

Summer Vacations are coming up, and along with them comes the increased demand for travel.  One thing that is often overlooked is the effect that flying can have on your back.

Let us explain:

Cramped legroom, uncomfortable seating, and being confined to a small space, all contribute to lower back pain during and after a flight.

A common compliant we hear from our patients is increased back pain and/or stiffness following a flight. That is why DSMC has prepared 4 simple tips that will help support your back and make traveling a lot more comfortable when traveling on your vacations…

Take advantage of direct flights when you can.

Image of a person waiting for their connecting flight inside of an airport terminal.

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 shoehorned 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 heave 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.

Try to Move as Much as You Can

Image of the inside of an airplane facing towards the cockpit down the isle with a depth of field effect.

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

Sitting too long in the same position causes tightness and pain (whether you’re on a plane or not).

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.

Pack Lightly - Your back will thank you!

Image of a hardwood floor from the top down viewing the inside of a single suitcase.

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

Every extra item you squeeze into your bag is one more thing you’ll have to hoist up into the overhead bin or drag through the airport. After getting stiff during the flight, the first thing you do when you stand up is lift a heavy bag from over your head- that is not good.

An isle seat can help here as well, as you can be the first to get up and move a little before you have to retrieve your bag.

Nevertheless, 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.

Take an Extra Layer

I know, “What is he talking about now!?!”

This is not to keep your back warm, but a sweatshirt, fleece or long sleeve pullover makes a great prop to support your back. You can fold it over in a shape that will support your back. It’s highly adjustable and can be changed if your back support needs change during the flight. It’s a great way to make a horrible seat more comfortable.

Cover image of Doylestown Sports Medicine Center's free back pain booklet

Bring tips with you on the go!

If you want more tips to ease back pain, you can download Doylestown Sports Medicine Center's free report that shows you ways to ease back pain naturally – it has some helpful exercises inside too which you can use on your vacation.

Go here to get your copy and take it with you:


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