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A Physio’s tips for air travel

Published: 02 April 2014 - Injury Treatment and Prevention, Physio Tips, Wellbeing

Everyone looks forward to going on a holiday, and with air travel becoming increasingly affordable, more and more people find themselves jumping on a long haul flight to places like Europe or the UK.

However, this will usually involve having to sit in a confined space for a prolonged period of time, up to 15 hours if you're heading to the USA, and may cause a few unwelcome problems for you by the time you reach your destination!

To avoid landing with a sore neck, back, shoulders or knees, as well as reducing the chances of developing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), here are a few handy tips to follow:

Tips for safe air travel

  • Try and sit well in your seat: many of us are guilty of slouching in our seats, and while it may be comfortable at first, it will cause you to feel stiff later on. When you first sit down try to sit back so that your bottom is in contact with the back of the chair and that you’re sitting up straight. Check your position regularly and adjust accordingly.
  • Try to move regularly in your seat: every hour, try to make circles with your feet, pump your ankles up and down, roll your shoulders backwards, and try to tighten the muscles in your legs one at a time (e.g. glutes, groins, quads, hamstrings, calves, toes)
  • Try and stand up regularly: walk up and down the aisle and do a few heel raises (rise up on the balls of your feet)
  • Drink plenty of fluids: try to keep yourself hydrated by drinking water regularly, and avoid excessive amounts of diuretics (e.g. caffeine and alcohol) so that you don’t become dehydrated. Being dehydrated as well as being inactive both increases your chances of developing a DVT; which can easily turn into a life threatening problem.
  • Consider taking a lumbar roll or neck cushion with you on the flight: these devices can make your flight a lot more comfortable and reduce the chance of injury
  • Be sensible with your luggage: Consider choosing luggage which has wheels or using a trolley, and when lifting it off the carousel get as close as you can to it and try to avoid twisting or over reaching for it
  • Be prepared: if you already have an existing condition which may be flared up by air travel, consider visiting your Back In Motion physio before your trip to get the problem sorted beforehand. The same idea goes for those who plan on an having a physically active holiday; if you plan to do any vigorous activity such as hiking, prepare yourself before you leave by doing a couple of training sessions to reduce the chance of injuring yourself whilst away

If you have any concerns about travelling or need to have any of the issues raised here looked at, be sure to book in for a Free Initial Assessment with your nearest Back In Motion Physio

Happy Travels!

Lachlan Ferguson-Smith - Physiotherapist, Back In Motion Melbourne On Collins