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Traveling with Back Pain? Tips and Tricks for Pain Free Travel

Traveling with Back Pain? Tips and Tricks for Pain Free Travel
Kevin Cleary

Your spine is not a big fan of travel and this can be exponentially increased during the travel season known as the “holiday traveling season.” Many times this can include hours in cars, planes, or even trains in a seated position. Ouch!! As you can imagine, finding a way to travel so that your spine is pain free would definitely be of interest to those with travel plans and back pain.

Traveling With Back Pain

Your Back Hates Travel

Our backs and spines can be finicky little creatures. The human body loves to be upright and in-line, so when we are forced to travel in seated positions for long periods of time our bodies have a way of letting us know. Unfortunately, this subtle notification is in the form of pain and usually it’s in the form of a hurting back. Many times this is caused by an impinged nerve or a compressed disk. This type of travel pain is a form of radiculopathy. This is a term used to describe back pain associated with a spinal nerve root that is compressed causing symptoms such as:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness

Of course these symptoms can be accompanied by pain. It’s when the nerves exit the spinal cord and become impinged by a bulging or herniated disc (the shock absorbers between your vertebrae) that travel associated pain occurs.

Dealing with your Back Pain during Travel

Whether you are flying across the country or driving to Grandma’s house for hours, being in a seated position can induce travel related back pain. Finding ways to relieve or even avoid back or spinal pain can lead to an easier excursion during the holidays. Rest assured we have some tips and tricks to help you. You can try:

  1. Choose Your Seat Early: When flying, try to book your flight as early as possible in order to choose your seat. It is at this time you can opt for seating that offers greater legroom so you can stretch out. If at all possible, recline your seat since this can relieve strain on the back and minimize back pain. You may have greater success reclining while traveling in a car, but any little bit can help!!
  2. Fly off Peak: By flying during off-peak times you can avoid crowds and long lines. Usually this means traveling via airplane during midweek. You can also contact the TSA to streamline the security check-in process and don’t be afraid to ask for a wheelchair if necessary. You can also sign up for the TSA pre-check program to make security lines less daunting. When driving, try to avoid rush-hour and peak holiday travel times to minimize your time in the car.
  3. Use Proper Luggage: Avoid backpacks (especially slinging a backpack over only one shoulder) or luggage that has straps that go over your shoulders. Also, don’t over pack and use suitcases that have wheels so you don’t need to lift heavy, bulky luggage. One important tip for dealing with luggage is to never twist your back while lifting heavy items especially your luggage.
  4. Take Breaks: If you’re stuck on an airplane, feel free to get up and stretch both your back and your legs. When driving, try to alternate who drives and make frequent stops if possible to stretch your legs and your spine. When driving, hit the Internet to find out where rest stops are located along your travel route. You can ask your doctor or physical therapist for exercises or stretches you can do to avoid or alleviate any back pain.
  5. Pack Comfort: Whether flying or driving, bring along items that can help you avoid back pain such as neck pillows, heating pads, or pain relieving gels (i.e. BenGay or Aspercream). The use of lumbar pillows or even a lumbar brace can be beneficial during long trips. Be proactive in heading off back pain that can ruin your trip.
  6. Don’t Overdo It: While traveling on vacation, don’t try to see or do everything all in one day. This can lead to back pain that may ruin the rest of your trip. Trying to overdo it can also increase stress which can be another trigger for muscle tension and pain.
  7. Pain Management: During travel you should be sure to bring any and all pain management items you need. Whether it be ibuprofen or a portable TENS unit, these are items you can easily bring with you to alleviate back pain once it rears its ugly head. Also, when back pain occurs the use of ice packs or disposable heat packs can help you overcome back pain.

We all need to travel at one time or another in our lives, but back pain can seriously hamper any travel plans. Overcoming this pain just needs a little forethought and planning in order to make any trip a pleasurable one.


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HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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