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Help! I need to travel via airplane this week for a meeting and the last time I traveled, I could hardly walk because of terrible low back pain. Since I am already experiencing low back discomfort, I am afraid of history repeating itself. What should I do?


The best option is to travel first or business class with comfortable and spacious seating, usually more than ample leg room, and most importantly, the ability to get up and move around more. If you will be traveling in coach like the vast majority of travelers, seating parameters are much tighter especially when flights are full. In any case, here are a few tips to look after your back:

  • Use a C-shaped pillow to support your neck. It can also help you maintain good posture in your seat.
  • Place a small pillow or rolled up blanket in the small of your back to maintain the lumbar curve and decrease pressure on your low back.
  • Keep adequate space under the seat in front of you to have the ability to move and stretch your feet and legs.
  • Stand up and move about the plane as often as possible. Choosing an aisle seat will help make this easier.
  • Use wheeled luggage and other sensible bags to avoid any excessive heavy lifting. Ask a member of the flight crew to help you lift your bags if you have the option.
  • For a carry-on bag, use a lightweight backpack that is fit correctly to your body to distribute its weight evenly.
  • Finally, recommended exercises specific to your origin of symptoms can help keep your low back pain under control while traveling and possibly avoid it all together.

Don’t let prolonged exposure to airline seats create problems for you. Call a physical therapist today to learn ways to avoid the low back discomfort associated with travel.
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