I’m stuck on an airplane and my back hurts – What do I do?

With so many of you taking holiday vacations and flying to your destinations, Total Performance PT wants to prepare you for that long flight and give you some tips on how to decrease your back pain.

Sitting for a long period of time does a few things to your back:
Holding good posture becomes more difficult. When you slouch, your back bones and muscles become sore.
Staying in one position for a long time causes your back and leg muscles to become tight and stiff.
Blood pools in your legs from lack of movement. Your leg muscles normally help pump blood back to your heart so if your legs aren’t moving, your blood isn’t circulating as well as it should be.

If you are stuck on an airplane, there are things you can do in your seat to improve your posture, stretch out your legs, increase your blood flow, and overall decrease your pain. For each of these exercises: place your feet on the floor with your knees at 90-degree angle and sit up straight.
Seated Heel Raises – Lift your heels keeping your toes on the floor and then lower your heels back down. Repeat 20-30 times every hour.
Seated Marching – Keeping your back straight, lift your leg as if you are bringing your knee to the ceiling and then lower it back down. Repeat 20 times on each leg every hour.
Scapula Squeezes – Sitting up straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together pulling your shoulders backward. Hold 2-3 seconds and relax. Repeat 20 times every hour.
Back Extension Stretch – Place your palms on your lower back just below your pants line. Bend backward slightly. Hold for 5-10 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times every hour.
Figure Four Stretch – Cross one leg over the other so your right ankle rests on your left thigh. Keep your back straight and slowly lean forward, bending at the hips, until you feel a stretch in your right hip/bottom. Hold for 10 seconds and relax. Switch legs. Repeat 5 times on each leg every hour.

If you are on a particularly long flight, you should stand up at least once an hour to stretch out your leg muscles and increase circulation. You can get up, walk to the bathroom, and return. Or you can get up, walk to the bathroom, and do some of the exercises listed above in the open space.

In addition, it is important to note how you are sitting on the plane.
Try not to over-correct for poor posture. Good posture doesn’t mean sticking your chest out and holding your shoulder blades squeezed together. It should feel natural and comfortable. Roll your shoulders up, back and then drop them naturally back down to feel where your shoulders should lie.
You shouldn’t cross your legs. Crossing your legs rotates your hips and puts added stress on your pelvis and lower back. Keep both feet on the floor with your knees at 90-degree angles to take stress off of your lower back.
You should put a pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back to keep your spine properly aligned in its natural curves and prevent you from slouching into poor posture.

It is very important to remember these tips so you can decrease your pain and enjoy your vacation!

If your pain ever becomes too severe, call Total Performance PT to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist.

If you are experiencing pain in North Wales, pain in Hatfield or pain in Harleysville then call our office at 215-997-9898 for a free consultation!


We’re Hiring!
We Have an Immediate Opening for a Physical Therapist in Harleysville. Resumes Can Be Sent to linda@totalperformancept.com

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