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Planning taking your bad back on vacation? Read my back pain story travel tips first!

Posted Apr 07 2007 12:00am
Here are some hot tips on travelling with back issues. I hope you find them useful.

We all need a break, and if you have back pain, pinched sciatic nerve symptoms, backache and stress you probably need one more than most. Holidays are great, a time to relax, be with the family, play with the kids, explore, romance your loved one…or are they?

If you have back problems you may be thinking it is easier to stay at home. For many of us with back pain and sciatica symptoms just the very thought of a long journey, a strange bed, a lot of sitting, standing and travelling just doesn’t seem worth it.

Part of my back pain story is that with the onset of a ruptured disc and back pain I gave up holidays, and so did my family. That was just a miserable time for us all. Then I thought there must be a way. Whether it is a short trip or a long haul flight here are some tried and tested travel tips.

1. Before you travel with your bad back.

  • First it is important you contact your doctor to see if you are safe to travel with your back condition.

  • Check you can get proper travel insurance and do shop around and make sure you are well covered.

  • If you require medication for back pain make sure you carry enough for the duration of your travels and take some extra in case of delays. Ensure you carry your medications in your hand luggage and in their original labelled containers. Check with airline before booking your flights for the latest regulations on this. Do take all your back care medications and anything else that helps your back pain and sciatic nerve symptoms, like heat pads, with you in had luggage.

  • If you are flying try to book an aisle seat. This makes it so much easier for when you need to get in and out, gives you slightly more room if you need to stretch out a bit and means you won’t have to bother other people so much.

  • Pack as lightly as possible, especially if you are carrying your luggage. If possible use suitcases with wheels; they are great if you have a bad back. You may be able to buy some things you need when you get there. Check out the clothes washing facilities and then pack accordingly.

  • Pack some relaxation music or stress reduction CD's to use on the plane. They will help you relax more and ease tension.


  • Check your destination. Is it easy for you to get around? If you find steps difficult are there any you will have to negotiate? What are the medical facilities? How much walking will you need to do to get around? How far is your destination from the airport? Will there be a long car or coach journey? You need to know what you can handle comfortably with your back problems and book accordingly.

2. While waiting for your transport.

  • If you find sitting aggravates your pinched sciatic nerve symptoms and back ache, keep moving about before your journey. You will have a lot of sitting to do so take the opportunity to walk about, stand up and stretch. Do not sit down unless necessary.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to your airport or port. You do not want to be getting stressed and rushing. Get there a little earlier than you need to then you will remain relaxed.

3. During a flight.

  • Drink lots of water on the flight. Particularly if you are taking back pain medication and as you are at altitude your body will easily get dehydrated which is not good for anyone and especially not if you have back pain and disc problems. However the easy solution is to keep drinking water and to avoid tea, coffee and alcohol as these only dehydrate you further.
  • Move around as much as possible and at least once an hour get out of your seat and walk up and down the aisles. If you are following a back care stretching and strengthening back pain exercise system then try to do some of these. Check out lose the back pain for an excellent system. Do be courteous to other passengers but it is possible to do especially the standing ones in the aisles or in the galley part if you request politely of the cabin crew at times when it is not too busy.
  • Try not to fall asleep. This can be difficult but it is better to stay awake and move than to fall asleep and be in an uncomfortable position which may aggravate your back pain.

  • When in your seat, use the pillows and take a lumbar support if you need to help you get in the most comfortable position you can. Airline seats were not designed for people with back pain but there is a lot you can do with blankets and pillows to make yourself less uncomfortable. If it helps you put your feet on a raised area to bring your knees and hips in a better alignment, you will need to experiment with this.
  • Do ask for assistance; do not try to struggle with putting luggage in the overhead bins etc.

4. Travelling by car

  • The advantage of driving is that it does give you the freedom to stop whenever it is safe to do so. However driving and sitting in one position for long periods of time can be hard on your back. Whether you are the driver or passenger try to stop every hour. Get out and walk around, stretch and get the circulation going again. Drink lots of water. Use a lumbar support and heat pads if they work for you. Move the seat around so you are as comfortable as possible. If you usually drive, see if you can share the driving.
  • If it is your own car you will hopefully have established the most comfortable positions for you. If you are hiring a car try to check out how the seating suits you and take your supports, a small pillow etc to mould the seat to you if it is not right.

5. Travelling by coach and train.

  • Try to get an aisle seat and take every opportunity to stand up, get off, walk around and do your back pain exercises. Do not worry about people looking at you. It is better for your bad back that you do them. It is not worth being in pain for the sake of a little embarrassment. Try to limit your journeys by coach or choose a journey where there are many stops. By train make frequent walks up and down the aisles.

6. At your destination

  • If your destination is a long drive from the airport do consider staying in a nearby hotel/motel for one night so you can relax, do your back pain exercises and get in the pool if there is one. I have found this invaluable and make it so much easier to tolerate longer flights.
  • Pace yourself. Treat your back well, build in rest times and times to do your back care stretches.
  • No one knows your back like you do and it is your job to be aware of its needs.
  • Do watch out for activities that are advised against for people with back pain or disc problems. It is often in the small print so be careful. Ask in advance of booking trips how long you will be sat in a coach or car so you can plan accordingly.
  • In the bedroom use all the pillows to make your bed as comfortable as possible and ask for more if you need them. The thing I find hardest is leaving my memory foam mattress behind but I find lots of pillows and a blanket or towel under my hips for support helps my back a lot.
  • If there is a pool and it is safe for you to do so, use it. Water therapy helps many people with back pain and it is a good opportunity to do your back care stretches in the water.
  • When on holiday do keep up with any back pain exercises you need to do. This is not the time to cut back on what you need to keep your back healthy. Continue to drink more water, have good nutrition and do your back care stretches and exercise regularly.
Feel free to visit my website at www.mypetback.com for more articles, information, solutions to help, hints and tips on back pain in everyday life, inspiration and where i share my back pain story.

And finally…

Have a great time and enjoy yourself, you so deserve it!

jasmine ann

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