Avoiding Back Pain on Airplanes

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Traveling in an airplane no longer has to be painful or uncomfortable. While all airplane seats has a curvature that forces the spine into an uncomfortable C-shape, there are steps one can take for a pain-free ride.

These simple tips protect the spine and reduce muscle tension during an airplane flight:

  • Fill the C: The concave shape of airline seats puts pressure on the spinal discs and is the starting point for muscle tension. Fill the lower part of your seat with pillows, blankets, sweaters, or a Stretchsitcushion to create a flat plane along which you can lengthen your spine.

    Editor’s note: One of the first things I do on a long flight is to take the blanket that they give me and put that behind the small of my back.

  • Hiphinge Forward: You can avoid the C-shape altogether by hip-hinging forward. Use your hands to support your head with your elbows resting on the open tray. You can adjust the placement and height of your hands to provide a gentle stretch in the neck.
  • Support Your Head: One of the best ways to rest or sleep on a flight is to lengthen your spine and support your head against the seat in front of you. If you are lucky enough to be in a window seat, you can find even more support in the corner between the seat in front of you and the wall of the airplane. Be sure to use a Stretchsit cushion, blanket, pillow or sweater to cushion your head.
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by Esther Gokhale

Esther Gokhale, pain specialist and author of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, is creator of the popular Gokhale Method, which takes an anthropological approach to pain free living by getting to the root cause of the pain, which involves how we sit, sleep and walk.

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