How can I avoid getting aches and pains on long-haul flights?

Published on June 22, 2010   ·   No Comments

Joint Clinic: osteopath Kristian Wood fixes your aches and pains

Plane seats are not designed for comfort: use a pillow or rolled up blanket to support the curve of the lower back Photo: GETTY

Q I am recently retired and about to embark with my wife on the trip of a lifetime around the world. We will be taking several long-haul flights. We have never been the most active of people, and are anxious as we both suffer from various aches and pains in our backs. We also worry about DVT. Is there any practical advice you can pass on to help ease our travelling experience. PS: We are flying economy! Mr and Mrs T Coleman, Yelverton, Devon
A It sounds as if you have an amazing trip ahead of you, but you are wise to think about the impact on your bodies. You want to maximise your enjoyment, and aches and pains could mar the experience.
Ione of the first things to remember when flying long-haul is the need to keep up your fluid intake. The very low humidity levels within the pressurised cabin have the effect of dehydrating the body. Water is the best option, as alcohol, tea and coffee have a diuretic effect that will lead to further dehydration. Keeping hydrated will benefit your circulation, and your muscle health.
Take time to make yourself comfortable from the start; use a pillow to support your head and neck. An inflatable ring (available from pharmacies and travel shops) can help prevent your neck becoming stiff if you fall asleep.
Plane seats are not designed for comfort. Use a pillow or rolled up blanket to support the curve of the lower back. If you can choose a seat before check-in, go for two adjacent aisle seats as this will allow you to stretch out one leg at least. Do not place luggage under the seat as this will restrict leg room. Do make sure that you move around as often as possible – every 30 minutes or so.
You can also go to the back of the plane and perform a few simple mobilising exercises to keep your muscles and joints flexible; for example, put your hands on your hips and twist one way and then the other several times. Alternately, stand tall with your hands by your side, and then perform a downward stretch, first to the right, and then to the left.
You can also exercise without leaving your seat:
Hold the armrests, slowly lift your knees simultaneously, and hold for a few seconds. (Repeat 10 times).
Hold left knee and bring it up toward chest, hold it there for 15 seconds and repeat with right side. (Repeat 10 times).
Contract thighs and perform a sitting march on the spot for 30 seconds. (Repeat 5 times).
Lift foot, point toes outward and rotate foot in circular motion for 30 seconds. (Repeat 5 times each foot).
With heels on floor, lift toes upwards as far as possible, and hold for 30 seconds. (Repeat 5 times).
With the balls of your feet on the floor, lift up your heels as high as possible, and hold for 30 seconds. (Repeat 5 times). I hope this helps.

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