As a physical therapist with occasional back and neck pain, I find that traveling can be a little scary. Even when I’m not having a pain flareup, the thought of a long flight makes me nervous. However long the flight time is, it’s a long day between getting to the airport, waiting in security, waiting at the gate, and the finally boarding the plane. A “short” two-four hour plane ride turns into a half day even with the added hours of sitting or standing before and after flying, things that always trigger my back and/or neck pain.
Here's my approach to avoid backpain while traveilng:
- I use a backpack instead of a heavy shoulder bag or messenger bag. Packing lightly is not my talent, so I make sure to use a backpack with supportive straps that is comfortable against my back.
- I get up every hour on the plane and perform some basic stretches and exercises: neck retraction and extensions, standing backbends (thanks to the McKenzie method for this gem!), and hip flexor stretches.
- On the days leading up to flying I use my peanut, my foam roller, and stretch diligently. I am extra aware of my posture and try not to be a slumping mess
- I drink a TON of water before and during my flight as ehydration makes the muscles feel stiffer.
- I travel with my peanut as it’s easy to pack away. I use it for neck and mid-back exercises, and I roll my calves and glutes out.
- I walk up and down the aisles for a stretch to reduce back stiffness.
- I usually have my own appointment for physical therapy pre-booked for after my trip to handle any issues that may arise.
Quick tip: if you forget your foam roller, you can always use an article of clothing or a towel rolled up. It's not as good, but it'll do in a pinch.
These are the methods I use to keep my aches and pains at bay. If you’re taking a long trip somewhere and you’re feeling anxious about it, make an appointment with Rose PT because what works for me may not be your solution, and we can figure it out together!