We posted some holiday health tips early this month. And since travelling can be challenging during the holiday season I’ve been giving some additional thought to travel tips.
Flights are often crowded, cramped and uncomfortable at the best of times, but even more-so at this time of year. So here’s a few ideas to help ease back and neck pain while getting to your travel destination.
Things you could bring (you might want to double check with your airline):
- Lumbar support roll: to help spinal alignment, posture, and relieve pressure on your low back. You may also request pillows on the plane to make a roll, or use an article of clothing rolled up.
- A tennis ball/travel size foam roller: roll under feet for circulation. Often there is a small area at the back of a plane where you can do some stretching. Use these tools to roll your back or buttock muscles (against the wall).
- Collapsible/foldable feet elevating device: when seated you should have your knees at right angles. If your feet are not touching the floor something to support them would be beneficial and relieve strain on your low back. Alternately, you could request a couple of pillows to rest your feet on while inflight.
- Medications: over-the-counter or prescription in their original packaging and/or topical pain relievers ie) Biofreeze or Voltaren. Remember the containers must be 100ml or smaller to be in carry-on luggage.
- Ice: get a ziploc bag and ask a restaurant or coffee shop past security for ice. You could also request a flight attendant to fill with ice; you could also try to bring a gel pack that could be stored in the freezer on the plane, but I’m not sure if it would make it past security. Whether ice or a gel pack, do not apply it directly to your skin, or for more than fifteen minutes.
- Heat: a hot water bottle that a flight attendant could fill with hot water, a Thermacare heat wrap, or a gel pack that could be heated on the plane. (Same goes though. I’m not sure if it would make it past security and you don’t want to apply it directly to your skin, or for more than fifteen minutes.)
Things you can do before departure:
- Bring a small carry-on: a smaller, lighter piece of luggage is easier to manage both getting around the airport as well as loading into the overhead storage container. If needed, request assistance with putting the bag overhead to prevent straining your shoulders while lifting overhead.
- Direct flights: try to book a flight with less travel time (ie. fewer layovers)
Things you can do inflight:
- Move around: when the seat belt sign is off, get up and move. Prolonged sitting in a tight space increases tightness in neck and back muscles and joints. Stretching out your legs and feet and moving around during flight will also decrease fatigue and aid circulation and decrease potential blood clots from developing.
- Gentle stretches: Gentle range of motion movements of the neck (chin to chest, ear to shoulder) as well as standing stretches for legs and back will help decrease muscle and joint stiffness.
- Neck support: traditional “U” shape neck travel pillows tend to be quite thick and tend to push your neck into a forward posture. Alternately, use a sweater or light jacket behind your head to keep your neck in a more neutral alignment.
- Wear compressive socks: wearing knee high compressive socks will prevent blood from pooling in your lower legs and reduce swelling
- Stay hydrated! Cabin pressure and low humidity levels cause dehydration in flight. Drinking caffeinated beverages (coffee, teas, sodas) and alcohol are diuretics which encourage dehydration. Drink plenty of water to prevent circulatory problems and muscle cramping.