Globalization has brought us an increase in the interchange of products, ideas and culture. For business workers, officers or executives, globalization generates interdependence of economic activities and thus brings about frequent business trips. On top of that, in order to release stress from their daily lives, frequent fliers may also find themselves taking long distance flights for leisure purposes during holidays. It is definitely important to relax and escape from a hectic environment, but we should also be aware that frequent and long distance flights may easily cause different kinds of pain to our bodies.
During long distance flights, most passengers have to sit in cramped seats and wait for time to pass (typically at least 10 hours). People seldom move their body on a plane; they’d rather stay in their seat, enjoying a movie or reading books to consume time. However, prolonged sitting with limited space for our feet and legs combined with a lack of movement, can decrease the blood circulation to one’s lower extremities. This explains why lower leg weakness, muscle pain and leg swelling are common symptoms during long distance flights. In order to avoid hours of a sedentary position, it is encouraged to walk for a while or do some stretching exercise once every 45 minutes while in flight. Casual wear on a long distance flight is always a better choice in comparison with suits or other restrictive clothing. To relieve some discomfort from feet and leg swelling, slippers can be helpful as well.
Apart from pain in the legs, back pain is also prevalent in passengers. If you remain in a poor posture for a long period of time, it will bring a great deal of pressure to your spinal joints. A person who is required to do long distance travel over the span of their career and who does not properly support their spine will develop subluxations in their lumbar spine or pelvis. If left untreated over time, these bones out of a proper alignment can eventually lead to compression of spinal nerves and increased muscle tension, resulting in pain or even numbness. For passengers who already suffer from back pain problems, a lumbar support or back support cushion during the flight is a great solution for maintaining a normal spinal curvature and keeping a better posture.
A person who is required to do long distance travel over the span of their career and who does not properly support their spine will develop subluxations in their lumbar spine or pelvis. If left untreated over time, these bones out of a proper alignment can eventually lead to compression of spinal nerves and increased muscle tension, resulting in pain or even numbness.
A lot of people might take a nap during long distance flights, but only a few of them might notice that their sleeping posture could be wrong. Our cervical spine supports the weight of our head, which is on average around 8 pounds, and if you hang your head down or lean against the window to sleep, pressure on the cervical spine increases, thus straining neck muscles. If there is not enough support for the neck, long distance frequent fliers may even develop cervical subluxations. Therefore, it is recommended to sleep with a U-shaped pillow in a seated posture in order to support proper positioning of the neck, which will help to alleviate discomfort and pains.
To avoid suffering from these pains commonly found on frequent trips, the most effective method is body movement. As they say, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it! Stretching exercises can help to improve blood circulation in your body, similar to having a neck, leg or back massage. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water on the flight in order to prevent dehydration. It might cause you to have to use the toilet more often, but that’s another excuse to get up and get movement in your body. Apart from these tips, caring for your spine in your daily life is equally important. It is recommended that everyone have a regular maintenance checkup, especially for those taking frequent trips. Keeping your spines healthy before going on trips can definitely relieve neck or back pain problems on long distance flights. Be sure to consult your chiropractor before making a flight and have them find a chiropractor for you in the city you will be traveling to in case of the need for emergency care. In the meantime, safe travels wherever you may be going!
Dr. Joe Steiner
Doctor of Chiropractic, Life University College of Chiropractic