Travelling can be very exciting, but it can also be very stressful, especially if it is a long flight. Back or neck pain is nearly unavoidable as a result of sitting in the same (probably cramped) position for hours. Here are some tips to improve your journey.
Reserve a seat on the aisle or at the emergency exit. Either will give you a bit more space and you can get up as often as you feel. Try to book a flight at a time when there will be fewer people on board, as you will have more space in which to stretch out. Do exercises to strengthen your back and core muscles from about a month before the flight. Attend Pilates classes or lift free weights to achieve this.
Have everything packed and ready about two days before departure. Try to be as relaxed and unhurried as possible on the day of the flight. Be on time and relax with a book or magazine while waiting to board. Make sure you are well hydrated before the flight. If you know you will suffer from back pain, take muscle relaxants or pain killers an hour before the flight.
Avoid lifting anything heavy on the day of the flight. Use baggage trolleys and make sure you have packed only what you need in your bags. You should opt for two smaller bags than one big, heavy one.
Try to keep your carry-on bag as light as possible for complete back pain relief; a heavy bag will strain your muscles and be uncomfortable to wrestle into and out of the overhead compartment. If possible, perform some discreet yoga or stretching exercises just before you board.
Use back support
Once you are seated, adjust your seat to be as comfortable as possible. Try to tilt it back as far as you can; your shoulders should not be pushed forward. Use a pillow or lumber roll to support your lower back and to align your spine correctly. Most flight attendants will be only too happy to supply you with pillows. Use one behind your neck as well. Though all passengers wish they could have comfortable divan beds to sleep on during a flight, they have to make do with what is available.
If you are short, place something under your feet to ensure that your knees form a 90° angle. This will relax your leg muscles and take some of the strain off your back muscles. Use magazines or even your bag to raise your legs.
Once the flight is under way, try to get up and walk or stretch a bit at least once every hour. Touch your toes a few times and stretch your arms above your head. You could even do some stretching exercises in your chair if space allows it. Make sure to drink enough water during the flight. You could have some light snacks; some people feel much better if they don’t eat much during the flight, instead waiting until after the flight to have a proper meal. This can also help with jet lag.
Some seasoned travellers do not sleep the night before the flight; they take some muscle relaxants and sleep for most of the flight. Use ear plugs and an eye mask to exclude any noise or light. Listening to music using ear plugs also helps to relax you. Upon arrival, bend your knees when lifting your luggage off the carousel to avoid hurting your back. Do a few stretching exercises as well.