10 Tips for Flying With Back or Neck Pain

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that it provides service to nearly 45,000 flights every day. These flights hold a collective 2.7 million passengers and cover nearly 30 million square miles of airspace!

Do you plan to take a flight this year?

If you suffer from any form of back or neck pain, you know that the experience isn't always pleasant. From the cramped elbow room to the rigid seats, it can exacerbate any issues that are already causing you pain.

Today, we're providing 10 tips for flying with a tender back or neck. Read on to discover how to make your time in the air as comfortable as possible. 

How Does Flying Intensify Back/Neck Pain?

Whether your flight is one hour long or overnight, sitting upright for an extended period of time can wreak havoc on your joints. 

If you have experienced a physical injury to your back or neck, the awkward position alone can cause the muscles in these regions to tighten up. If you fall asleep that way, the stiffness can worsen. Note that these aches are on top of any muscle fatigue you're already feeling from lugging a heavy suitcase around the terminal.

Then, in addition to the physical issues, there is also the emotional side of travel to contend with.

Research shows that most people tend to carry excess tension in their shoulders and neck. This region is especially known to hold our stresses related to burdens and responsibilities. If you've ever rushed to your gate right at the last minute, you know the pressure of carrying this particular type of strain!

Tips for Flying Pain-Free

As you can see, there are many reasons why you might need an upper-body massage as soon as you step foot into your final destination.

If that's not quite on the itinerary, let's take a look at 10 steps you can take the help keep your back and neck muscles loose and relaxed during your flight.

1. Start Preparing Early

In some cases, there are special in-flight accommodations that can be made for people who have documented neck or back pain. Before your flight, visit your physician and talk about your plans. 

If your condition is chronic, your doctor may be able to write a letter detailing your symptoms. You can then show that letter to the airline.

In response, you may receive additional pillows or cushions when you sit down, along with the opportunity to walk around during the flight. Sometimes, attendants might even offer to lift your luggage into the overhead bin for you.

In other cases, you might get a flight upgrade to business class or first-class! It's always worth checking into, so call or visit your doctor's office as soon as possible. 

Other pre-flight precautions you can take include:

  • Scheduling your flight when there will be fewer people on board
  • Avoiding a flight that requires you to wake up super early
  • Limiting your downtime during between-flight connections

woman on plane wearing sleep mask and pillow

2. Move When You Can

Of course, there will be times during your flight when the seatbelt sign comes on and you're absolutely required to stay buckled in your seat. This is for your own safety and keeps you secure during periods of turbulence.

However, try to stand up and move around the cabin as much as you can when this light isn't activated. If possible, reserve an aisle seat so you can do so more easily.

Sitting in the same position for an extended period of time can lead to unwanted pain and stiffness. Ask the flight attendants if there is any room at the back of the plane where you can perform some light stretches to loosen your muscles. 

If you aren't able to take as many actual stretch breaks as you'd like, at least try these simple airplane stretches you can do from your seat! As long as you can keep your muscles warm, you'll be one step closer to comfort.

3. Recline in Your Seat

On most airlines, you'll likely sit on C-shaped seats, even though your spine is straight. While these seats might be economical for the airline, they aren't exactly comfortable for you. 

Why? Most C-shaped seats are severely lacking in lumbar support. They also tend to push your head and neck into an awkward forward-lunging position. 

What can you do? If possible, try to recline your seat a little. This can help remove excess pressure from the discs in your back and lets you shift your body weight onto the backrest.

The only caveat? Just make sure the person in the seat behind you is on board with your new position!

4. Use a Travel Neck Pillow

If you're used to flying with neck pain, you can always take matters into your own hands. Before you take off, invest in a premium-quality neck pillow that can make the in-flight experience much more enjoyable.

Rather than settling for a flimsy one off the shelf, check out our Memory Foam Airplane Travel Pillow Kit.

Available in five different colors, this neck pillow slides effortlessly behind your head and offers hours of comfort. Made with 100% pure, heat-responsive memory foam, it contours easily to the shape of your neck and head, so you're always supported.

The best part? Our pillow features an ergonomic, raised-lobe design that offers supreme comfort for any position. Whether you prefer to lay your head back or side to side, you're covered. 

There's also a convenient, built-in pocket to hold your cell phone, earbuds, or other travel essentials!

5. Add Lumbar Support

The standard airplane seat is decidedly devoid of lumbar support. This is why it's smart to bring your own back cushion along. 

Our travel-sized, Gel-Infused Memory Foam Lumbar Support Back Cushion more than fits the bill. 

Featuring both gel-infused memory foam and strategically-placed ventilation holes, this cushion is ergonomically designed for optimal comfort. It also includes two adjustable straps that fit snugly around the airplane seat. 

As you shift and move around, the cushion will remain securely in place. This way, even if you're sitting in a C-shaped seat, you don't have to suffer for hours without relief.

We also offer a Memory Foam Back Cushion Lumbar Support Pillow that offers instant back support, no matter where you use it. If you don't have this exact pillow on your flight, you can always bring along a back roll or even a couple of other pillows to provide a similiar level of cushioning. 

6. Drink Plenty of Water

You already know the importance of staying hydrated for your overall health. Yet, did you know that drinking plenty of water can also help keep your neck and back pain at bay?

Being dehydrated can worsen your back and neck pain, making an already-uncomfortable flight that much more difficult to bear. This is because your spinal discs contain an inner gel that helps keep them lubricated and functioning properly.

When you don't drink enough water, this gel can dry out, making your discs more vulnerable to excessive stressing, tearing, or bulging. To that end, make it a priority to drink as much water as possible in the days leading up to your flight. It's a small step that can make a major difference!

7. Maintain Correct Posture

Are your legs making a right angle as you sit in your airplane seat? While it's easy to give in to slouching, try to keep your posture upright during your flight. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your knees should be about the same height as your hips.

If you need a little extra support getting to that 90-degree angle, request materials from your flight attendant. You can prop your feet up with cushions or blankets to help straighten your spine and sit up straighter. This position can help provide quick relief to a too-tight lower back. 

Looking for a stylish and sleek solution? You can always bring our Memory Foam Foot Rest Pillow on board! This comfortable pillow features a unique teardrop design that's both ergonomic and orthopedic. 

When you're not using it to lift up your feet, this pillow also doubles as an under-knee cushion to optimize your posture and eliminate pain while you sleep.

8. Ask For Extra Leg Room

Traveling with chronic pain is never easy. Yet, there are small steps you can take to make the journey as comfortable as possible. 

One of those is to ask for extra legroom.

Not only is it more difficult to get into a 90-degree angle when you're cramped for space, but you're also forced to contort into an awkward position that can place additional stress on your back and neck. 

While the request might not always be met with accommodation, it never hurts to ask. Whether you have long legs or not, it's always worth upgrading to extra legroom to make sure you're not stuck with your knees up to your chest for hours on end.

9. Bring Pain Medication

Do you take prescription or over-the-counter pain medication to help you keep your neck or back pain at bay?

If so, try taking it an hour or two before your flight leaves. This way, it will have enough time to get into your system and start working. You may need to inform your flight attendants that you're taking medication, so they can properly monitor you during the flight. 

To make the security check process as easy as possible, remember to keep all of your medications in a clear, plastic bag!

10. Try Heat or Cold Therapy

Do you have back pain that tends to flare up during a long flight? If so, consider applying either heat or cold therapy to help alleviate your symptoms. 

There are also benefits to alternating between the two. For instance, cold therapy is ideal if your back muscles swell and become painfully inflamed mid-flight. At the same time, heat therapy delivers powerful relief to rigid, tight muscles that just won't relax.

If you opt for cold therapy, bring along a cold gel pack. Then, ask the flight attendant to keep the pack in the refrigerator on board. For heat therapy, bring a heat wrap with you or ask the attendant to fill up your hot water bottle.

Regardless of which method you choose, remember to place a thin layer between the hot or cold pack and your skin. 

Stay Calm and Rest When Possible

What happens when you try most of the suggestions above, but you're still not fully comfortable? 

In this case, try to breathe slowly and relax your nerves. Chances are, much of the excess tension you're carrying around has led to the pain you're experiencing.

Try inhaling deeply, counting to five, and exhaling as slowly as you can. Repeat this exercise as often as you need to.

In addition, you might also find it relaxing to listen to soft music on your headphones or plug into a meditation app on your phone. While back pain and neck pain are real, physical ailments, allowing your mental state to relax can help encourage healing and promote overall comfort.

young couple laughing on the plane

Take Flight in Comfort and Confidence

You shouldn't have to let back or neck pain get in the way of a grand adventure. 

These 10 tips for flying can help you fly the friendly skies with ease, comfort, and confidence. The key is being prepared, bringing the right props along, and staying calm. Stressing over your flight will only add to your tension and worsen any existing pain.

Looking for more products, tips, and resources that can make your life as comfortable as possible? You came to the right place.

We offer different product categories in our online shop, all designed to help you maximize your health, wellness, and comfort levels. Feel free to check out our full inventory today and contact us with any questions.

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