No matter how exciting your destination, sometimes getting comfortable on a flight can be tricky – especially if you’re one of the UK’s many back pain sufferers.
Holding a fixed position for an extended period of time – such as being sat on a cramped aeroplane for hours – can be a common trigger for aches and pains, even for those who don’t have a history of back problems.
According to a survey by Spine Universe, 88% of people report experiencing increased back or neck pain following a flight.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to help prevent and manage a flare-up while flying, so you can hopefully arrive at your destination pain-free. Here are six top tips for managing back pain while travelling:
1. Baggage help
“Ask Cabin Crew to provide assistance for you when lifting heavy baggage,” suggests Kristopher Robertson, Physiotherapist at AXA PPP healthcare.
If you know heavy-lifting, or lifting at certain angles can trigger your back pain, make sure you practice the same precaution while travelling.
2. Room to move
Another of Robertson’s top tips is to “book ahead to secure seats with extra leg room”.
Seats with extra leg room are subject to availability and may require you to pay a premium, but it’s definitely worth looking into if having room to stretch your legs out, and being able to get in and out of your seat more easily, is going to make a vast difference to your comfort levels.
3. Think about how you’re sitting
“Sit upright with support in the small of your back,” says Robertson. “Ask cabin crew for an extra pillow or blanket if possible,” he adds – these can be handy for supporting the lower back or neck and ensuring you’re comfortable throughout.
Also, Robertson advises: “Keep your knees and hips level with your feet flat on the floor.”
“If you live with back pain, it’s important to travel prepared as it will likely be aggravated by a long journey.
“If you’re on prescription medication, ensure you order it with plenty of time to spare, and if not, purchase pain patches and painkillers from your local pharmacy,” advises LloydsPharmacy expert Anshu Bhimbat.
“Don’t store these in your suitcase, but keep them on you and in their original packaging to avoid any problems.
“If you are taking painkillers, do so an hour before the flight to give it time to get into your system. If you’d like tailored advice, LloydsPharmacy offers a pain management service in most of its stores.”
5. Move around
Getting up and having a bit of a move around, as often as is possible and safe to do so, will help prevent muscles and joints from stiffening up.
Keeping mobile is often a vital part of managing pain and back problems when you’re on solid ground – and the same applies when you’re up in the air.
6. Stretch it out
As well as standing and having a stroll, Robertson suggests doing some “simple exercises to stretch and mobilise your spine” as well.
Use the space at the end of the gangway to do some gentle stretches (obviously don’t attempt any stretches for the first time that you’re not normally comfortable with!), and take advantage of the wait at the airport by keeping mobile and limber.
Do you find flying aggravates back pain? Tell us how your manage symptoms while travelling in the Comments section below.