Flying can test our patience- physically and mentally. Whether you are travelling for work or pleasure, pesky pains can often present itself after a bout of flying. Those travelling with underlying injuries often experience an exacerbation by the time the wheels touch down. So whether you are in the air for 30 minutes or 30 hours, here are our tips and tricks to travel pain free.
1) Place your carry-on bags in the overhead bins when available. Don't underestimate the importance of leg room, even if you are `comfortable' with your bags near your feet. An increase leg room means you can straighten your legs in front of you, which can prevent knee pain from developing by lessening the pressure of the patella (knee cap) into the knee joint, all while improving circulation of the lower body. Still not satisfied? Pony up the extra leg room. Depending who you fly with, these seats can run anywhere from $20 to $40 dollars extra, and are typically located around the emergency exits, or in the front of the plane.
2) Bring a tennis ball in your carry-on bag. Tennis balls can be my saving grace when I travel. They are small, lightweight, and can help to break up any muscle knots that develop after long periods of awkward positioning. I use them on my glutes, hamstrings, back muscles, upper back. Depending on how close you wish to become with your neighbor, you could even work the plantar fascia (soles of your feet), however we will leave that decision up to you. Depending on the area I am targeting, you can sit on the ball, or lean into it for 60 seconds a time on a tight spot and move on to the next.
3) Find a reason to stand up. Use the restroom, grab something from the overhead bin, or sooth your crying infant by walking up and down the aisle. Moving around helps to break up the monotony of sitting in one position for too long which can lead to back pain and even injury.
4) Use that carry on U-shaped neck pillow as additional low back support instead. You can also use a rolled-up jacket and place it in the small of your back. Airplane seats are poorly designed for lumbar support, and they cause us to hunch forward. However, low back support will correct this, causing you to sit up higher with a neutral posture.
5) Consider compression socks to improve circulation. Sitting for long periods of time can lead to poor circulation in the lower extremities, and in some people, serious health conditions may develop- such as deep vein thrombosis which is better known as ‘blood clots’ often occurring in the legs. If you opted against using compression socks, try pumping the legs while you are sitting in your seat. Flexing the ankles and the toes, contracting the muscles of your calves, glutes and quads and hamstrings. These muscle contractions can help shuttle the deoxygenated blood in your legs back to your heart.
6) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Staying well hydrated during your flight can help to prevent your muscles from significantly tightening up or even spasming during mid-flight. Steady water intake will also help to flush out toxins out of the body. Lastly, it may even give you a reason to get up out of the seat and find the restroom.
7) Pain patches, muscle rubs, kinesiology tape: Whatever additional tools you can find around your house to keep those flare ups at bay. I often suggest these to my patients who are in acute pain. Pain patches, or stick on patches over the painful area can often keep muscles loose and pain levels down. Kinesiology tape can also help you achieve better posture throughout the flight, decrease swelling over an inflamed area of the body, or provide additional stability, helping to decrease muscle spasming.
At Boulder Sports Chiropractic, we use movement screens to biomechanically evaluate your movement, allowing us to address the root of your problem, rather than treating the symptoms. We use the best techniques to address your source of pain and dysfunction including Active Release Technique, Graston, Dry Needling, and exercise therapy. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.