Back Care When Traveling on a Plane

A popular topic of discussion in my office is how to avoid or prevent back pain when flying. Flying comfortably and without pain is often difficult, so I have decided to put my advice in this column at the suggestion of a teammate on my soccer team. Traveling in any form, especially planes, can be stressful on the spine and aggravate pre-existing conditions. Let’s face it; we were designed to be upright creatures, not sitting for hours. Here are some tips to make flying more comfortable and less stressful on your spine.

1. While waiting in the airport, try to avoid sitting for too long. Get up and move around. You will do plenty of sitting on the plane. If you are sitting, try putting one of your small bags behind your back to give your back support and force you to sit upright. Most of the seats in airports are not designed to support the spine very well.

2. Drink water. Staying hydrated is important for protection of muscles and discs.

3. Wear loose comfortable clothing that doesn’t cause restrictions.

4. When sitting on the plane, make sure you have good support for your back. Using a small pillow found on the plane, placed behind your back helps to give the spine support. The pillow may be too much support for some, so try a blanket rolled up for softer support. There are also inflatable lumbar supports that you can purchase that are easy to travel with and you can just inflate it when you need it.

5. Try to get up and walk every hour while on the flight. Moving keeps the blood flowing and keeps the muscles from stiffening up. Stretch your hamstrings and hip flexors if possible.

6. Sit with upper legs parallel to the floor. Moving your feet either in or out to get your upper legs more parallel to the floor helps reduce tension in the lower back.

7. Don’t sit on your wallet or anything else. If I asked you to sit on a textbook under one of your cheeks for three hours would you do it? No. So don’t sit on your wallet.

8. Protect your neck. Don’t lean over and look down the entire flight. Reading magazines or playing on your phone hunched over and looking down for prolonged periods can lead to neck and upper back pain. Take breaks and sit with your head tilted slightly back.These are just a few tips to help make flying less painful and more enjoyable. Every spine is different so make sure to check with your chiropractor to see what would be most beneficial for your unique spine.

Dr. Buchan and Dr. McComb are board certified doctors of chiropractic and owners of Kingwood Chiropractic Associates. They have extensive education and training in the treatment of neuromusculoskeletal conditions, applied clinical nutrition and acupuncture. They are committed to helping you and your families obtain the information which is essential to achieve health and wellness, and through that process empower you to make decisions that will lead to fulfillment of your goals and a life of greater potential. For more information on methods of improving your health, go to