Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Your Spine

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: November 20, 2018

Airplane Back Pain

If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving or another event in the near future, hopefully, you have a little more luck than Steve Martin and John Candy did in the aforementioned film. Riding in a car or a plane isn’t always the most fun experience, and that sentiment is especially true if you have back pain. Traveling can oftentimes make back problems worse, but it doesn’t have to if you plan ahead and take some precautions. Below, we share how to protect your back whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile.

Preventing Back Problems While Traveling

One of the most common triggers for individuals who suffer from back pain is being in one position for an extended period of time. You may think that sitting means you’re giving your spine a rest, but sitting can be very stressful on your vertebrae and spinal discs. When you’re in one position for an extended period, stress remains channeled through certain areas. When we’re moving, stress if constantly shifting to different areas of our body, like our knees, feet, and spine. In a seated position, it’s your spine that often bears the brunt of this stress.

The two most common forms of long-distance travel, by car or by plane, each require you to stay seated for extended periods. It comes with the territory, but it doesn’t have to overly stress your spine if you plan ahead with these tips.

  • Stretch – Before you get in the car or board the plane, do some light stretches to help activate certain muscle groups and increase blood flow to your spine, which will need healthy, oxygenated blood.
  • Move – If the pilot removes the seatbelt sign or you stop for gas, use this time to your advantage and move around. Even just a couple of minutes of movement will relieve your spine of the stress it has been channeling. If you’re driving a long distance, leave early so you can have some scheduled pit stops along the way.
  • Stay Ahead of Your Pain – If you take medications to manage your back pain, or you tend to have a recurrence of pain when you’re seated for long periods, take your medications or anti-inflammatories before you get in the car or on the plane. If you wait until pain develops, you’re going to be in pain for a while until the medications kick in. Know your body and try to stay ahead of any discomfort.
  • Stay Comfortable – Economy class or the back row of a packed sedan are rarely roomy, but you can still plan ahead and take some steps to try and increase your comfort levels. Pack a pillow or a hooded sweatshirt you can use to provide some cushioning or lumbar support if you’re trying to get comfortable. If you are traveling by car, see if you can ride in a seat that provides more leg room for you to stretch out.
  • Healthy Roadtrip Snacks – What’s a road trip without snacks? However, make sure your snacks aren’t all junk food, because sugars in sodas and candy can increase your risk of spinal inflammation, which can compress structures and cause discomfort. Drinking water on the trip is almost important, as it will help keep your blood vessels wide so they can pump healthy blood to your spine.

So if you’ve got some traveling in the near future, be sure to keep these tips in mind so you and your spine make it to your destination in one piece.

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