7 Tips for Flying Without Joint Pain


Sitting on a flight last week, I overheard many complaints from nearby passengers.  From not being able to get their bags lifted into overhead bins to sore backs and cramped knees.

But, this didn’t surprise me! We often hear complaints about flying from our clients.  Headaches, neck stiffness, sore knees, hip pain, and swollen ankles are common – with back pain being at the top of the list.

I bet you have experienced some of these since 88% of people experience increased back pain when flying. The uncomfortable seating, cramped legroom, and prolonged period in a small space all contribute to the joint aches and pains many feel during and after a flight.

Although I didn’t give my two cents on the plane last week, I wanted to share with you 7 tips to decrease back and joint pain while flying.

1. Get Up Often

When you are taking a flight, how often do you get up and move? Probably not much! Sitting too long in the same position causes tightness and pain. So, unless you will be sleeping the entire flight, you’ll want to request an aisle seat. This will allow you to easily stand up and move around a little when the seat belt sign is off.

2. Sneak in a Stretch

When you are able to get up, walk to the back of the plane and do a few simple stretches. A few back extensions and lunge stretches can go a long way in keeping stiffness at bay. If you can’t get up, you can do neck rolls, raise your arms overhead, and arch your back right in your seat.

3. Pack Light

If you are carrying your luggage on the plane, try your best to pack light. This is the area where I often fail. I have to remember that every extra item I add to my bag I will have to drag from my car into the airport and then hoist into an overhead bin. Make it easier on yourself by packing less and consider checking bags that you can’t safely lift.

4. Choose Bags Carefully

As for carryon bags – those you slide under the seat in front of you – backpacks are often best.  They allow you to distribute the weight evenly across your body instead of placing unnecessary pressure on one side of your body. If you must carry a single shoulder bag, switch it regularly from one side to the other to keep your body even.

5. Take Pressure off Your Back

Bring a back roll or small pillow for your low back to support and minimize slouching. In addition, find ways to keep your hips and knees at right angles by propping your feet up if they don’t touch the ground. Over the course of a long flight, these things can take pressure off your low back and prevent the pain in the back, hips, knees, and shoulders from misalignment.

6. Hydrate & Hydrate More

We lose a lot of fluid while flying and it is easy to become dehydrated.  This can worsen joint pain and stiffness. Water helps move oxygen to muscles, lubricates joints, and sends nutrients to healing parts throughout the body. Drink water frequently and avoid dehydrating beverages – such as those with caffeine – to keep your body hydrated and pain away.

7. Sit Back & Relax

The stress of flying causes muscle tension that adds up to pain and soreness when you reach your destination. Try to sit back and relax on your flight with deep breathing (inhale deeply, count to five, exhale slowly, and repeat 10 times) to relax your muscles and nerves. Alternately, listen to soothing music, nature sounds, or download a meditation app to your portable device.

Try a few of these things next time you fly and you will arrive at your destination with more energy and less discomfort.

If you have a trip coming up and you are concerned about pain limiting your ability to enjoy your time away, give us a call.

During a Free 20 minute phone conversation, one of our Doctor’s of Physical Therapy can ease your concerns and give you tips that address your specific complaint.  Click the link below to request a Free call.