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What can I do to make a long flight a little more comfortable?

I love to travel, but sitting in an airplane seat for several hours is a challenge. As our practice members start their summer travel plans, we get this question frequently: “What can I do on the airplane so that my back isn’t killing me by the time I get to my destination?”

Here’s what we talk about:

  1. Look into getting a small seat cushion that has a cut-out for the tailbone. A quick search on Amazon (I searched for “seat cushion for desk chair”) shows that there are several options less than $20, and some up to $80. Airplane seats have a hard ridge along the back of the seat that puts a lot of pressure on the coccyx and sacrum. A small, light seat cushion should help alleviate that pressure.
  2. Find something to put under your feet to raise your knees up to hip level or above. When I’m sitting at my desk, I use a shoe box. Airplane seats are designed for people who are 5’10” - if you are shorter than 5’10”, your knees will be below your hips, and that pulls the belly-button and lumbar spine forward. Those who are taller than 5’10” have the opposite problem, and they have to sit on their ischial tuberosities more than the short people. If you don’t want to carry around a footrest that has no other purpose, get creative. If you’re a reader, put your extra books under your feet instead of in your backpack. Some people have hard cases for things like makeup or medicines. Choose something that won’t break under the weight of your legs, and remember that you will have to stow it away during take-off and landing.
  3. Get up and move around every 30 minutes. Even if you don’t go to the bathroom, walk to the back of the plane and then back to your seat. It’s helpful to sit in the aisle seats for this purpose… your neighbors may not be too pleased if you ask them to get up with you every 30 minutes.
  4. Mineral balance plays a big role in muscle tone. You have probably heard talk about magnesium recently, and yes, magnesium plays a really important role in muscle function. Most people are probably deficient in several minerals - magnesium, potassium, sodium, iodine, selenium, and calcium being at the top of the list. There are a few reasons that we are deficient these days (drinking perfectly purified filtered water, mineral depletion in our farm soils, low consumption of fish and nuts), but every single muscle movement in your body requires a significant amount of minerals to contract and relax. Nettle leaf infusions (most people call it nettle leaf tea, but technically it’s not a tea if it doesn’t involve the Camellia sinensis or Camellia taliensis plants) offer the highest amount of bio-available magnesium you can consume. Many magnesium supplements cause constipation or diarrhea, but nettles infusions don’t tend to do that to people. Try to drink 4-8 ounces of nettle leaf infusions per day for a few weeks prior to your travels, and it may help with restless leg symptoms. Note: do not start drinking nettle infusions if you are pregnant. While there are no studies that show harm to a pregnancy, some experts have theorized that nettle infusions may cause contraction of smooth muscles, which could also include contractions of the uterus.

Hopefully these tips will make your summer travels a little more comfortable!

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