Most of us are susceptible to experiencing discomfort or even pain while traveling on long trips, particularly if you have a history of neck and/or back pain. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help you get to your destination happily and ready to enjoy your stay!
- Try to book an aisle seat. It’s important to get up every 30-60 minutes to stretch, so if you have an aisle seat you’ll have a much easier time moving around. Walk up and down the aisle. Try to find a spot in the back of the plane where you can stand and stretch (see stretches below).
- Consider booking a flight at a time of day that isn’t as popular in order to increase the likelihood that the seat next to you will be open so you can stretch and sprawl out a bit.
- Try not to pack your carry-on too heavy. It can be tough to lift a heavy bag into the overhead bins, and though flight attendants usually are very accommodating, it is not their job to lift your bag for you.
- Don’t store anything under the seat in front of you. Having that little extra leg room can make a big difference.
- Bring a lumbar roll and cervical roll or inflatable cervical pillow for better posture. You can ask the flight attendant to borrow a pillow or two if you don’t have a lumbar roll, or just roll up your sweatshirt or jacket and place behind your low back. Don’t sit on your wallet!
- Bring a sealable baggie that you can use for icing your neck &/or back as needed. The flight attendant should be able to give you some ice. Keep that baggie for the hotel, too!
- Stay hydrated! The spine and muscles rely on good hydration. The pressurized cabin causes low humidity, in addition to the sodas, alcoholic beverages, and coffee that can contribute to dehydration. Yes, drinking more water means going to the restroom more often, but it’s a perfect excuse to get up and move around!
- Adjust the seat to facilitate neutral spine posture. Tip the seat pan forward a bit and inflate the lumbar support (or add a lumbar roll or rolled towel). Keep your head back against, or very close to, the headrest. Don’t sit on your wallet!
- Consider using an inflatable cervical roll if you’re the passenger and anticipate that you might nod off for a while.
- If you’re driving, hold the steering wheel at 8:00 and 4:00 to minimize the weight of your arms on your spine.
- Try to plan your drive so you can stop every hour – two at the most – to walk around and stretch (see stretches below).
- Bring two ice packs in a small cooler (that way one is always cold and ready for use) or a sealable baggie for ice.
- Stay hydrated! (see #7 above)
- Stand with your hands on your hips and gently arch back. Hold for 30 seconds or slowly repeat arching and straightening up several times.
- Stand in a wide squat with your hands on your knees. Gently round and arch your spine several times.
- Stand with your right ankle on your left knee in a figure 4 position. Lean your hips back until you feel a stretch in your right hip or buttock. You will likely need to hold onto or lean against something to keep your balance. Hold 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Stand with one leg extended out in front of you with your heel on the floor and your toes in the air. Lean forward from your hip (so you can maintain the inward curve of your lower back), until you feel a stretch in the back of the extended leg. Hold 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Stand in a runner’s lunge with one leg out in front of the other. Bear the majority of your weight on your front leg and tilt your pelvis forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip on the back leg. Hold 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Sit and place your right ankle on your left knee. Pull your right knee up towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your right hip or buttock. Hold 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Sit on the edge of your seat. Extend one leg out in front of you with your heel on the floor and your toes in the air. Lean forward from your hip (so you can maintain the inward curve of your lower back), until you feel a stretch in the back of the extended leg. Hold 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.