Avoid Back Pain on a Flight with these 3 Tips!

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  • Long hours on a flight can trigger back pain problems and make your holiday an unenjoyable one. Avoid back pain on a flight by moving, stretching and supporting your back

3 tips to help you reduce the chance of low back pain on a flight

1. Get Moving

The first tip to avoiding back pain on a flight is simple – get moving. Try not to stay in a fixed posture or position for extended periods of time. So whenever that seatbelt light indicator is switched off, that’s the cue for you to make a trip to the toilet or to the nearest galley area for a quick stand (we don’t want to be obstructing the walking pathways!). The lack of movement from sitting over prolonged periods of time can lead to muscles and joints stiffening up. Our recommendation would be to get up from your seat every hour, this allows you to avoid sustained posture and reset your sitting position. 

2. Stretch

Here is a list of stretches you can do on the plane, options in both sitting and standing. Stretching is going to be helpful for loosening up those commonly tight muscles from long hours of sitting. 

Seated stretches to avoid back pain on a flight:

seated lumbar rotation to avoid back pain on a flight
Lumbar rotation
  • Seated Lumbar Rotation: One hand is placed on the outer side of your opposite thigh/knee and the other hand behind you. Twist your trunk, assisting with your hands until you feel a stretch in your side and back. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

seated trunk flexion to avoid back pain on a flight  

  • Seated Trunk Flexion: In sitting, ensure you are seated far back enough that your thighs are supported on the surface. Slowly bend forward and reach your hands toward the floor. Hold this position for 20 seconds. You should feel a stretch in your low back muscles. 

  seated figure 4 stretch to avoid back pain on a flight

  • Seated Figure 4 Stretch: Cross one of your legs over the other knee, placing the outside of your ankle just above the knee. Apply gentle pressure onto your crossed knee as you lean your body forward. You should feel a gentle stretch in your low back and glutes. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Standing stretches to avoid back pain on a flight:

Quadratus Lumborum Stretch
  • Quadratus Lumborum Stretch: In standing, keep your legs straight and cross the leg of the side you are stretching in front of the other leg. Reach over your head with the arm of the side you are stretching. You should feel the stretch on your side. Hold this position for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

  • Split Stance Hip Flexor Stretch: Start in a split stance, with one leg in front and the other a step back. Keeping feet in this position, drive your hips forward, bending the front knee. You should feel a stretch on the front of your hip on the back leg. Hold this position for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

3. Support!

Just as we place emphasis on workplace ergonomics, the use of lumbar support is not just for our work chairs but can be for your long haul flights as well. You are sitting for hours just as you would working at the desk. Simply bring along your own seat cushion if you have one. Alternatively, use the mini head pillows airlines may provide or improvise with a towel or blanket roll. Using lumbar support helps place your spine in a neutral position, as opposed to the usual slouched/flexed position. In the neutral position, there is less pressure on your tailbone and joints, and more on your thighs. 

Long haul flights and why it causes back pain

With travel opening up after 2 long-awaited years and with June holidays upcoming, many of you may have already booked a flight to take a much-needed break. But for some of you out there with low back pain, plane rides can be a stressful affair due to the narrow and uncomfortable seats onboard. This is especially so with long haul flights, by the end of the flight you find your back has stiffened up or in discomfort. Certainly not the way to start a holiday! We hope that the tips above have been useful in helping to manage and avoid a flare-up of back pain problems during a flight.

Seek physiotherapy help for back pain

If you still experience low back pain after trying out the aforementioned tips or the pain persists even after the flights, do book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists to have a detailed assessment done to identify the root cause of your low back pain.