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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How do I prevent back pain on long haul flights?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Dana Rader

    Exercise Physiologist

    Dana Rader is the owner operator of GYROTONIC® Melbourne. As an exercise physiologist she is passionate about the health benefits of exercise. Dana has been … View Profile

    On long haul flights one is sitting for a prolonged period and this can create compression in the spine contributing to back pain. I try personally to get up from my seat at least once every 60-90 minutes and stretch; stretching the calves, hamstrings, quads, and back I find helps. I move my spine in all directions flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion. I also make sure I have a small pillow or use a rollup jumper or T-shirt to place behind my lumbar spine while sitting on the plane for long periods..

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    Rob Satchell

    Physiotherapist

    Principal physiotherapist at Coast Allied Health in Culburra Beach, NSW. Rob has a special interest in the rehabilitation of sports injuries, in particular injuries of … View Profile

    Good answer Dana. I agree with you and do much the same! Preventing lower back pain on long haul flights is just a matter of getting up and moving.Our bodies weren't designed to sit in the one spot for long periods. I find doing some “pressure relieving” movements like lifting my bum up off the chair for 10-20 seconds every so often helps a lot and can tide me over till I get a chance to stretch my legs and back . As well as stretches, try also doing a few squats and walk several laps of the plane, try to do this as often as every 20-30 mins, although every 60-90minutes is often more realistic.

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    Sandra McFaul

    Physiotherapist

    Do you suffer from chronic lower back pain or neck pain? Based in SYDNEY, Sandra is 1 of ONLY 15 Physiotherapists in Australia with ADVANCED … View Profile

    Best tip: get an extrra pillow or take a spare jumper with you.  Roll it up and put it at your belt or watist level.  The problem is that when we sit, we lose the curve in our back and slouch.  Obviously, getting up moving and stretching your legs is also helpful.

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    Dr Roi Cheng

    Chiropractor

    Graduating with distinctions from the prestigious 5 years Bachelors and Masters Chiropractic program at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Dr Roi Cheng took a … View Profile

    As mentioned in the previous answers, getting up and moving about is probably the best solution to preventing back pain on long flights. As humans, we are designed to be on the move as this allows proper muscular contraction, stretching and decompression of the spine. Sedentary postures such as sitting tends to create abnormal stress on certain areas of the spine and can eventually lead to discomfort and pain.

    However, you will still have to be seated for most of the flight (the flight attendants will see to that!) So, I like to set up my seat so that my hips and higher than my knees (I do this by putting blankets/pillows/magazines on the seat to increase the height.) You should notice that the curve in your low back does not collapse as much once you get it high enough.

    Hope this helps.

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