Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, dealing with back pain while on the road or in the air an take the joy out of traveling. If you suffer from chronic back pain, here are some tips to help you manage your back pain while traveling.
Talk to your doctor and notify the airline.
While there is no guarantee, with a letter of medical necessity from your physician, the airline and flight crew may allow you special accommodations, such as upgraded seating, priority boarding and allowing you to get up and move about the airplane cabin as much as needed on long flights. Of course, safety is always the airlines’ top concern, but it can never hurt to ask. When you book your trip, contact the airline and inform them of your medical condition. As needed, you may be provided wheelchair assistance in the airport, as well as assistance with your baggage.
Schedule your travel strategically.
If you’re flying, schedule your trips for the least busy time of day to increase your chance of having extra room to stretch out on the flight. Call to schedule your flights by phone so an agent can provide insight and help you pick the flight that is least likely to be packed full. If possible, limit layover and connection times so you won’t be stuck sitting in an airport for hours. And if you do end up with a long layover, be sure to walk, stretch and then find a place where you can lie down on your back and rest.
Bring back support.
Whether you’re traveling by plane or car, be sure to bring a lumbar support pillow or back roll to help prevent slouching and keep your spine straight. A neck pillow may also help with neck pain and provide a more comfortable position to catch some sleep.
Don’t forget your pain meds.
If you take over-the-counter or prescription pain medication, be sure to pack it in your carry-on and have them with you at all times. Take your pain meds one hour before leaving on your trip so it’s already in your system and working.
Check your posture.
Long car and plane rides can no doubt be uncomfortable, and with airlines continually decreasing passenger space on the plane, you may find it difficult to ergonomically position your body to avoid pain. However, try to keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees at a 90-degree angle. If you have long legs, request an exit row for more leg room.
As much as possible, get up and move around on long flights. Try to find an open space near the back of the plane where you can do a few light stretches to loosen tight muscles. If you’re taking a road trip, schedule frequent stops (at least every hour, or more if needed) to get out of the car, move around and stretch. Any movement you can do on your trip helps stimulate blood flow to your lower back. While seated, adjust your position at least every 20 minutes. Flex your feet and ankles frequently to keep blood flowing and stretch your leg muscles.
Use an ice pack.
Applying a cold pack to your back can help reduce inflammation that may be causing your pain. This is easier to do if you’re traveling by car rather than plane, though you may be able to ask the flight attendant to fill a small Ziploc bag with ice on your plane. Instant ice packs found at the pharmacy are another good option. Be sure to keep a protective layer of clothing or a towel between your skin and the cold pack.
A long trip in the car or on a plane allows for plenty of time for you to focus on deep breathing to relax your muscles and nerves. Listen to soothing music or read a book or magazine that will help distract your mind from any stiffness or pain you might be experiencing. Stay focused on your final destination and the scenery and activities you will enjoy once you arrive.
If you suffer from chronic back pain, contact Houston’s experienced back pain doctor, Dr. Vivek Kushwaha, today.