Holiday season is quickly approaching and some of our patients are booking their flights to go home to see family they don’t get to see any other part of the year. We love to see their excitement. But hate to see the anxiety that ultimately sets in when they think of the low back pain they experience when sitting for a long period of time.
By the very nature of the word “vacation”, a person should experience the act of vacating their normal routine; including dealing with chronic back pain. So we’ve put together an action list for those flying to family and friends this season to help them prevent back pain on plane rides.
1. First – and this will almost always be first in our lists – to prevent back pain, ask us for help!
Oftentimes, airlines will accept a letter written by a doctor explaining your particular needs. It could lead to special accommodations, as well.
2. Contact your airline to inform them of your medical condition with plenty of notice.
That way, if they choose to provide you with wheelchair assistance or a luggage carrier, they have had plenty of time to prepare for your arrival.
3. Schedule your flight for the best possible outcome.
We know you have limitations on control, but if you book in advance, there are some options. If morning time is the worst time for you to experience pain, keep that in mind as you look at flight departure and arrival times. It’s also important to look at how long your layovers will be. Having a chance to get off the plane and walk around is great, but a long layover also means sitting in uncomfortable positions for a long period of time.
4. Bring along gentle-on-the-stomach pain medications.
Take the over-the-counter medication that your doctor has recommended prior to departure. Bring extra Aleve or Tylenol in case you experience additional pain in-flight.
5. Set your back up for success with additional support.
Airplanes are built for quantity, not always quality, so your seat is not specifically contoured to accommodate someone with low back pain. If you don’t have room in your carry on for an additional support pillow, ask your flight attendant for one to place behind your lower back.
6. Watch your posture during the flight – and try to move around.
If available, request a seat with more leg room in order to stretch and move your legs when you can feel yourself start to become stiff. You can also request extra pillows or blankets to prop your knees up to an angle high enough to relieve pressure off your low back.