Airplane Travel With Back Pain

Tips For Airplane Travel With Back Pain

Airplane Travel With Back Pain

Follow these recommendations if you suffer from back pain and will be traveling by air this holiday season.

Plan Ahead:

  • Try to book flights at off peak times to avoid crowded flights and allow for a smoother experience. Book flights with shorter in-flight connections or layovers times, if applicable.
  • When given the option to choose your seat, select an aisle seat as it provides the easiest way to get up and move about the cabin during the flight.
  • Keep in mind certain rows on planes do not recline; these usually include the very last row and the row in front of an exit row.
  • Invest in lightweight spinner luggage that does not require you to tip it and pull it behind you. Pack light as heavy luggage can cause or aggravate back pain by straining muscles and joints.


  • Be aware of your surroundings. Most of us are not typically used to being packed into a small tight space with little room to move, so take into account the proper mechanics with each movement.
  • Lift luggage in stages. Back injuries often occur at the end of one's range of motion when lifting a heavy item. First, lift your luggage onto the top of a seat. Then, in a separate motion, lift it into the overhead bin. Reverse the process when removing the luggage at the end of your flight.
  • Bend at the knees rather than the back and use leg muscles to lift the luggage.
  • Minimize twisting the torso while lifting. Pivot with the feet instead.

Taking Your Seat:

  • Create length in your spine and watch your posture. Position yourself all the way back in your seat, bending at the hips to lower yourself down. Keep your shoulders back and avoid slouching or hunching forward. Keep your feet firmly resting on the floor or a footrest if need.
  • Bring a travel pillow for rest and reading time to help avoid neck strain.
  • For lower back pain, a lumbar support pillow can be used to help prevent slouching and to keep your spine straight. Self-inflating lumbar supports are great as they can easily become flat for easy packing. If you don't have one, ask for a pillow or use a rolled up jacket, sweater, or blanket to provide support behind your lower back.
  • Fasten the lap belt over hip bones. This will secure your back in the most ideal posture for flying to keep the lower spine from going into too much extension or flexion. Relax and allow the seat belt to do the work. Never place the lap belt above or on your belly.

During The Flight:

  • Get up and move as much as possible! Sitting in one position for long periods of time can stiffen the back muscles and stress the spine, which can make back pain much worse. You should get up at least every 30 minutes, especially on longer flights.
  • While standing, make sure to loosen up those joints and muscles that have been inactive. Go to the back of the plane if you can and do some gentle stretches. Movement stimulates circulation, allowing blood to bring important nutrients and oxygen to the structures of the back and legs.

Simple stretches and exercises to do during the flight:

  • Figure 4 Stretch: Cross one leg over the top of the knee of the other leg to create a “figure four.” Then lean your body down towards your legs to create tension in your glutes until you feel a stretch. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, then repeat 3 times for each leg.
  • Sitting hamstring stretch: Sit at the edge of your seat and straighten one leg in front of the body with the heel on the floor. Then, sit up straight and try pushing the navel towards the thigh while keep the back arched, without leaning the trunk of the body forwards. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, then repeat 3 times for each leg.
  • Hula hoop stretch: Gently create circular movement. Have your feet slightly wider than shoulder width.


10:00am - 1:00pm
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10:00am - 1:00pm
3:00pm - 7:00pm


10:00am - 1:00pm
3:00pm - 7:00pm

10:00am - 2:30pm

Back in Motion, Injury and Wellness Center
309 Kingsley Lake Drive Suite 901
St. Augustine, FL 32092
(904) 999-8343