5 Tips to avoid Pain while Traveling

By on June 10, 2017

Sitting long hours in an airplane seat can be a strain on the human body.  Humans are not designed to be seated, and the muscles of the lower back and hips can fatigue very easily after sitting for a long period of time.  Also, being seated puts extra pressure on the inter-vertebral discs, which can lead to degenerative disc disease over time.  These issues cause a lot of the pain experienced over long flights, but there are simple solutions to alleviate pain and discomfort. Here are 5 tips to avoid pain while traveling. 

Flight Health

1. Preventative Exercise

If a long flight is expected, much can be done in the weeks leading to travel.  Building up the muscles that support the lower back and hips can help strengthen muscles and prevent pain.  Any combination of core and stability exercises can help, including yoga, pilates, or stability ball exercises.  If one is prone to chronic pain during or after long flights, exercising can help prevent pain while traveling.

2. Back support

Airplane seats are designed to fit as many people as possible into an airplane.  As a result, comfort and ergonomics are a secondary concern.  The support on these seats is often insufficient, potentially leading to sore necks and backs.  To combat this, ask for more airline pillows and use them as a lumbar support for the lower back.  It also helps to come prepared with inflatable neck pillows or other support items to prevent sore backs and necks.

3. Get moving

Keeping muscles active can help return blood flow to stagnant muscles and keep joints mobile.  This can be accomplished by performing simple mobility exercises within the confines of an airplane seat, like glute stretches or knee raises.  Another solution is to get up and walk and stretch.  Travelers should take a break from sitting every three or four hours, even if it’s just quick trip to the washroom.

4. Good sitting posture

To make the best of an uncomfortable situation, it’s important that travelers don’t compound the issue by adopting poor sitting posture.  The correct way to sit is with a neutral spine without leaning to either side, and have the elbows supported by the armrest.  Feet should be flat on the floor or supported by a footrest.  Also, reclining the seat helps, as that decreases pressure on the inter-vertebral discs.

5. Portable heat pack

Avoid Pain while traveling - HKYantoYan.com

Heat can provide relief by softening tense muscles and increasing local blood flow.  However, typical gel-filled heat packs may be difficult to bring past security checks.  Fortunately, there are other options.  Buckwheat-filled pillows can be warmed up in a microwave upon request to provide long-lasting heat.  Also, there are disposable hand-warmers that can be placed over sore areas for quick relief.  Heat patches and creams, though not as effective as heat packs, can also be counted on to provide pain relief.

If you have ideas of how to avoid pain while traveling, please share with us in the comments section below: 

Lawrence Lam
Lawrence Lam is a Registered Massage Therapist from Vancouver, Canada. Working at Sutherland-Chan Centre, a health and wellness clinic in Hong Kong, he sees a wide range of patients, including office workers, amateur athletes, and post-surgery patients. Outside of work, Lawrence is an avid photographer that loves exploring the various mountain paths and hiking trails around Hong Kong.
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