Tools and tips for flying in comfort, style

Tips to make sure travelers get where they want to go feeling healthy and strong, and return home in the same condition.

October 20, 2012 23:24
4 minute read.
Back pain [illustrative]

Back pain 311 . (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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Whether it is to another city or another country, many people love to travel. But then the unexpected happens: an attack in your lower back or neck while on the plane or when you first arrive at your destination.

My job as a doctor of chiropracty and rehabilitation is to make sure my patients get where they want to go feeling healthy and strong, avoid any unforeseen injuries or mishaps and return home in the same condition in which they left.

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Sometimes travels present unforeseen changes and unpredictable physical and mental challenges. Did Dorothy expect the Yellow Brick Road? Did Little Red Riding Hood expect the Big Bad Wolf? Both young travelers could have used a GPS, for sure.

Here are some tips and tools for flying in comfort and in style:

1.Pack a small, firm pillow for your neck and/or lower back to create the correct position and proper comfort so your body will be able to sit in an airplane seat that was built for jolly green giants with curveless spines.

2.Drink water, and plenty of it, to stay hydrated in a very dry environment. Flying on the plane is an opportunity to relax and have an alcoholic beverage. Go ahead, but be sure to drink twice as much water as alcohol.

3.Take a walk or a stretch break every hour to keep the blood circulating and oxygen pumping. This is very important for all your muscles, especially those in your legs and feet.

4.Wear comfortable shoes. Leave your pumps and skyscrapers at home; flats are the best choice. They come off and on easily so you you can easily stretch your ankles, feet and toes.

5.Going through check-in and security can be very exhausting that is why it’s so important to dress for comfort as well as style. The looser the better – tight, stiff clothes can make you feel really uncomfortable. Opt for clothes that give you enough space to stretch and relax.

6.Due to climate differences and unpredictable changes, wear layers; you can always add or remove a layer to make yourself more comfortable. The worst thing is to be encumbered by too much material on your body, not to mention the small spaces in the seats, aisles and bathroom.

Before you get on the plane:

1. Pack some reusable heat patches or a small ice pack. Use ice for any acute pain and heat for any soreness/tightness

2. Bring a cervical pillow – either the inflatable kind or a bean bag. If you don’t have one of these, consider rolling up a small towel for your neck and/or lower back.

3. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids. This is essential before, during and after the flight.

4. Lift your luggage in three stages. It is recommended to break the action of lifting a heavy item down into smaller parts. When lifting a bag into an overhead bin, it can first be lifted to the top of the seat and then into the overhead in a separate motion. Bend at the knees and use leg muscles rather than back muscles to lift. Avoid twisting the lower back while lifting; instead, pivot with the feet. Carry heavy items as close to the body as possible, distributing weight evenly on both sides of the body

5. When carrying a shoulder bag, switch sides often to avoid stressing one side of the back

On the plane:

1. Take many stretch breaks... and then some. Change positions often in your seat. To keep the blood flowing, you can draw the alphabet in the air with your feet and hands

2. Exercise your calf and leg muscles to increase the circulation of blood and oxygen in your legs. Every 20-30 minutes, bend your knees and then straighten your legs, then press your feet hard into the floor or against the foot rest.

3. Stretch your neck in all ranges of motion: forward, back, side to side, ear to shoulder. Do this slowly and deliberately.

4. Write the alphabet in the air with your wrists, hands and fingers and your ankles, feet and toes.

5. Stand up and stretch many times during the flight, preferably once an hour.

6. Raise your arms up high, in front of you and then back, moving your shoulder joints.

7. Find many reasons to get up and walk around the plane

At your destination:

1. Wear comfortable walking shoes. The biggest complaint I hear from travelers is sore feet. Soak them in a hot bath or ask the hotel for some Dead Sea salt. Comfortable shoes for walking on all kinds of different terrain are an absolute must.

2. Make sure the bed and pillow you are sleeping on are comfortable for your neck and back. Ask the hotel manager and don’t be shy to ask for a board or a mattress pad to make your body feel more comfortable

3. If necessary, ask the hotel concierge for the name of a local chiropractor to get a treatment so you can get on with your vacation or business trip – pain free.

The writer is a certified doctor of chiropracty and rehabilitation.

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