Just got back from Spain via Amsterdam and I thought I’d share a few tips on how I coped with all the hours of sitting in a cramped little seat with the tiny fork and knife set, the tiny meal, served in the tiny dishes, with the tiny drink in the tiny cup….. I’m still a bit jetlagged and my ipod alarm clock woke me up at 6 am for some wacky reason (ghost in the machine), so now could be the perfect time to hammer out this article that I’ve had in my mind for a year.
When travelling, the biggest enemies are inactivity and improper posture. The combination of them both leads to soreness or stiffness in the lower back, legs, shoulders or neck. Here are a few tips that will help:
Use Your Pillows & Blankets
- This step should help to reduce the postural strain that improper sitting places on your body.
- Sit with your hips back against the back of the seat to get the maximum support from the seat.
- Place the blanket or pillow (personally, I like to fold the blanket in half) between the small of your back (the curve just above your hips) and the seat back. This will help to support your lower back in its natural curve and reduce low back pain. It is especially helpful if you are suffering from any disc related issues
- Place the pillow behind your neck and keep the back of your head rested firmly against the headrest so that you can feel your neck being supported. This helps to keep your neck in its neutral curved position and reduce neck stiffness.
- If you follow these steps you should feel like your upper body is fully supported in a more natural position. You should feel less strain or discomfort in this position
Get some exercise
- Too much rest is not a good thing. All that sitting without any real movement can make you achy and stiff. The perfect solution is a bit of exercise. Any simple exercise or movement helps increase blood flow and lubricate your joints. Improved blood flow nourishes and oxygenates your body’s tissues and helps in waste removal, leaving you feeling healthier and more refreshed.
- Get up and walk around. Use any excuse to go for a walk: Get a glass of water; Go to the bathroom; take a tour of the cabin; see what movies everyone else is watching; or as they say in the Dead Poet’s Society, view life from a different perspective!
- You will probably feel pretty stiff the first time you get up. This is a sign that you should be doing it more often!
Choose your seat carefully
- Make sure you get an aisle seat. All that getting up and walking around is never going to happen if you are stuck in the middle of a long row between 6 very close strangers. Make it easy for yourself to get up at will without annoying your neighbours.
- The aisle seat also means that you have to get up every time one of your neighbours wants out, but if you’re not big on sleeping on flights, being forced to get up is a bit of a bonus and the perfect chance to stretch out a bit.
- Don’t take all the aisle seats! Leave at least one for me unless you want to see me get cranky 😉
Use your time between flights
- If you are stuck waiting for a few hours between flights, take the chance to walk around. A good solid hour of walking can do wonders to reverse all the damage that sitting for 6 hours does to your body.
- Shop. Not up for a brisk walk? How about a leisurely stroll through the mall?
Beware Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that can form in your calf. It may feel like a bit of pain or swelling in your calf. This is only mildly annoying, but if left untreated can result in the clot breaking free and blocking the blood supply to your heart or brain. If you feel soreness and swelling in a calf muscle after a flight, consult your doctor. The typical treatment is a round of blood thinners to gently break down the clot.
- The lower air pressure combined with inactivity and sitting increases your chances of getting deep vein thrombosis. Seniors or women using the birth control pill are especially at risk.
- One solution for preventing the deep vein thrombosis from forming is exercise. It is much more difficult for a clot to form if you are moving about. Get up and walk around every now and then to keep the blood flowing in your legs.
- Try calf raises. While you are seated you can practise going up on your tippy toes and back down again. The constant flexion and relaxation of your calf muscles act like a pump and move the blood faster through the calf.
- An Aspirin a day. Aspirin is a blood thinner in addition to being good for a variety of other ailments. If you doctor agrees with it and believes you are healthy enough for it, take aspirin daily for 3 to 4 days before your flight. Remember to be sure to consult with your doctor before you try this.
Some other tips
- The air is pretty dry in the cabin, so keep drinking water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Try the in flight exercises. Most planes have neck and shoulder exercise routines available in their in flight magazines. Try them out. It might look a little silly, but they definitely help.