How to Limit Back Pain and Neck Pain While Traveling

Jun 03, 2024

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Are you dreading a flight or car ride that is coming up this summer? Here are so tips and tricks to help your travels pain free.

Traveling, whether for business or pleasure, should be an exciting and enjoyable experience. However, for many people, the journey can be ruined by back and neck pain. Long hours sitting in cars, trains, or airplanes can take a toll on your spine. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to minimize discomfort and keep your journey pain-free. Here are some practical tips to help you travel comfortably.


Choose the Right Seat

  • Air Travel: If you are prone to back and neck pain, choosing the right seat is crucial to preventing back pain. If you are planning on traveling by air for your trip, upgrading your seat or selecting an aisle seat may be the best option for you. The extra leg room makes longer flights much more bearable, and aisle seats give you the ability to easily stand up and stretch when needed. Using  your own lumbar support can also help with your back pain. You may also be able to ask your flight attendant for a pillow to place behind your back. Investing in a neck pillow can also prevent your neck from uncomfortable positions on your long flight. 
  • Car Travel: If you happen to be traveling by car, ensure your seat is at a comfortable angle by adjusting your seat. Avoid slouching by adjusting the seat back to support your lower back. You can also use cushions that support proper ergonomics. Stopping at rest stops every hour or so can also make your car ride more bearable. 

Pack Light and Smart

  • Use Wheeled Luggage: Avoid carrying heavy bags on your shoulder. Rolling bags are a great way to reduce any strain on your back and neck. Rolling your backpack or purse on top of your rolling bag can also limit the stress on your back. 
  • Over the counter NSAIDs: It is always beneficial to keep over the counter medications like Ibuprofen to eliminate pain and inflammation you may have throughout your trip. Take the recommended dose when needed. 
  • Distribute Weight Evenly: If you must carry a bag, use a backpack with padded straps and distribute the weight evenly. Try not to over pack the back your are carrying if possible. 


Stay Active

  • Move Regularly: Get up and walk around every 30-60 minutes. On a plane, stand up to stretch your back and legs. During car trips, stop at rest areas to get your blood circulating. If you are waiting in an airport because your flight has been delayed, or you like to show up 3 hours prior to your flight, walking around and exploring the shops is a great way to kill time and stay active. 
  • Stretch: Perform simple stretches to keep your muscles flexible. Focus on your neck, shoulders, back, and legs. Sometimes your back can hurt as a result of your leg position. 


Maintain Good Posture

  • Sit Upright: Keep your back straight and shoulders back. 
  • Align Your Body: Your ears, shoulders, and hips should be in a straight line to maintain proper alignment.


Use Supportive Gear

  • Neck and Lumbar Pillows: Invest in a good quality neck pillow for long flights or car rides to support your neck and head. A pillow may also help being placed by your lower back. 
  • Compression Socks: These can improve circulation and reduce discomfort in your legs and lower back.


Stay Hydrated and Eat Wisely

  • Drink Water: Staying hydrated helps maintain elasticity and fluidity in your joints and muscles.
  • Eat Light: Avoid heavy meals before and during travel to prevent bloating and discomfort.


Mind Your Sleeping Position

  • Sleep Smart: If you're on an overnight flight or a long journey, try to sleep in a position that doesn't strain your back or neck. Use pillows to support your head and maintain a neutral spine.


Consult a Professional

  • Visit a Pain Management Physician: If you are always in pain on flights or long car rides, seeing a pain management physician may be very helpful prior to a vacation. Treatments like epidural injections, Botox for chronic headaches, pain medications, or other treatments may be able to eliminate pain from your vacation. 
  • Visit a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist: If you have chronic back or neck pain, consider seeing a professional before you travel. They can provide specific exercises or treatments to help manage your pain.

Traveling doesn't have to be a pain in the neck—or back. By taking these proactive steps, you can make your journey more comfortable and enjoyable. Remember, the key is to stay active, maintain good posture, and use supportive gear. If you are looking to see a Pain Management Physician prior to vacation to make sure it’s pain free, you can schedule an appointment with any of our doctors at Garden State Pain and Orthopedics by using the “Book Now” button.