If you are dreading a long-haul flight because you have a bad back or neck pain, this article should provide some useful information on what you can do to relieve those aches and pains.
Flying can aggravate back pain or neck pain for several reasons. Lower cabin pressure can impact on your joints and spinal discs, causing temporary expansion of tissue which can lead to pain and is an important contributor to pain from trapped nerves.
More important considerations when flying, however, are the movement of luggage through the airport and the time spent stationary when traveling. This last is the most important factor for most people.
It is important to remember that your journey does not start at the airport, but at home. This can explain why even a short flight can seemingly cause a disproportionate amount of trouble.
Getting your car set up correctly can save you lots of discomfort, and means you will arrive at the airport fresh and feeling at your best.
When you get to the airport you may be walking a reasonable distance, which is great for your spine. But most of this walking will be on exceptionally hard floors which causes shocks to enter into the lower back. Wearing shock absorbing shoes can help prevent this causing bruising and pain.
There can also be a lot of standing around at an airport. This is not going to cause any damage to your back, even if it is uncomfortable, so try not to feel anxious. Avoiding leaning on one leg can help minimise the strain of standing for a long time. Shifting around a little can also help, as can clenching and unclenching muscles.
When it comes to carting your luggage around, there are a number of things that can make this easier on top of using wheeled suitcases or trolleys, how you pick cases up being the most important.
The right way of lifting can take some explaining and varies slightly from person to person, but if you tense your stomach muscles as you bend and lift, and try to bend at the hips you should protect your spine from the worst.
If you are towing a trolley or suitcase through the airport, try to swap hands at least every minute. The same applies if you are carrying a smaller case (this is in fact a great exercise!).
Even people with no back pain can get uncomfortable when crammed into an aeroplane, whether long haul or short haul. So if you already experience back problems or neck pain, you need to have some strategies up your sleeve to help yourself.
Much of the advice is similar to preventing back pain when you are sat at your desk, sofa or anywhere else for that matter. Central to this is to shift around as much as possible.
Changing your posture every 20 minutes is a must as this prevents creep from setting in and protects your ligaments. But your muscles are quicker to react than ligaments and really don’t like being kept still.
You may feel slightly self-conscious, but ask yourself which is better – possibly being looked upon as a fidget, or having a bad back for your holiday. Try to completely shift your position every few minutes. This includes moving the back rest regularly.
Since a lot of the pain that occurs after being sat down for a while tends to be muscular, and is essentially caused by some muscles staying switched on and others being switched off while you are sat, clenching or contracting different muscle groups can help dramatically.
Throughout the flight, squeeze muscles such as those in your buttocks, abdominals and throughout your legs. This is great at stopping you from seizing up, and has the added bonus of lowering your likely hood of DVT.
Particularly useful for people with neck pain, push your head back into the headrest for 10 seconds at a time. You can also sit with your chin tucked in slightly.
Finally, when you are preparing to get off the plane, be careful of remaining stooped under the overhead lockers as people move around. You are particularly vulnerable to bending forwards after having been sat for a long time, so stay seated for another few minutes until the traffic clears and you can get out into the corridor. Use the armrests and other chairs to help you get out of your seat.
Have a good holiday!