The summer season is upon us and most of us are itching to travel.  Some of us have let go of our normal diet and workout routines and for some, 2020 just wiped them out completely, physically and emotionally. 

We are now ready, willing and able to travel.  Here are some basic, common sense tips to help with back pain and soreness when flying: 

1)  If you can, try to stay on top of your workout routine and diet.  

Really important are those couple of weeks leading to your adventure.  If you have been a couch potato and inactive for long periods of time, your back muscles will be more than likely to spasm or feel tight.  Add some stretching to your routine. 

2) Packing your luggage is very important.  

Try to keep it as light as possible and when lifting use a wide stance with your feet.  In fact, think of a squat when lifting your luggage. 

3) Your luggage is ready and you are now standing in a long, long line.  

What a great time to do some stretching.  When you’re standing in line, keep your weight equal between both feet.  We are still observing “social distancing” so you can shift your weight back and forth.  You also might want to move your head from side to side, up and down for just a few seconds.   

4) Stay hydrated!!!!!! 

We really should always practice this mantra but it really is crucial before your trip. What better time than while in line to drink some water, maybe adding a bit of lemon or mint to it for flavor.  You can pretty much get anything now at the airports.  Hydration is key! 

5) Make sure you have plenty of heat wraps, cold packs, and soothing creams. 

A small pillow can go a long way, especially a neck pillow or lumbar roll. Shift it around — behind your back, under your bum — to change your body position. If you’re shorter, a foldable foot rest helps you keep good posture. A light blanket keeps you warm and can be rolled up for more support.  

6) Once on the plane get up every 20-30 minutes and stand or stroll if you can. 

If you need to, let the flight attendant know you’re dealing with pain and will need to stand up regularly. Do stretches while seated and also stretch your calves periodically by pointing your toes up.  Sitting, or staying stationary for long periods of time might put stress on your spine. 

This is general information and might not apply to your situation. Always check with your family physician!  If you have a serious condition or have recently had any type of procedure for your back, check with your physician before you travel.  Get a note from your physician.  You might be able to call the airline in advance and secure a seat that has more room. 

Now let’s get traveling and enjoy the summer! 

Dr. Cash is a fellowship-trained and board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon, and the founder of the Desert Institute of Spine Care in Las Vegas, NV.