How to Travel When You Have a Bad Back

When you have a bad back, any kind of traveling can be a nightmare.  Airline, train, and bus seats are cramped and that compact car you thought would be good for the environment and your wallet is regrettably not good for your back for any trip longer than a drive to the grocery store.  Fortunately, there are some things you can do to mitigate your back pain while traveling.


Don’t skip those trips to the gym before your trip.  While you’re on your vacation or business trip, try to squeeze in some exercising where you can.  If you’re staying at a hotel, get up a little early and sneak down to the gym. Do some laps while you’re in the pool with the kiddos.  Make exercise part of your itinerary by taking walking tours or renting bikes to get around on.

Avoid Foods That Cause Inflammation

Inflammation can cause joint and vertebrae damage.  Try to limit your intake of foods that cause inflammation like sugar, grains, dairy, vegetable oils, fatty red meats, margarine, cured meats, alcohol, and food additives.

Have Good Posture

It’s easy to slump in front of your computer screen for hours without noticing it.  Keeping your back straight and your shoulders back whenever possible will help to alleviate back pain.

Get a Good Cushion  

A cushion with good lumbar support for your car can help on long car rides.  Smaller lumbar cushions are also available for smaller airline seats.

Pack a Golf Ball

A golf ball or tennis ball can be used to give yourself a shiatsu massage.  In your hotel room, put a towel on the floor and lie on the ball, carefully massaging your back.  If this is too difficult, try massaging your back by leaning your back against a wall with the ball in between your back and the wall.

Take the Aisle Seat

Book your flight early enough so you can get your choice of seat.  An aisle seat makes it easier to get up and stretch without needing to climb over a stranger every time.  The seats by the emergency exits have more leg room. Business class may be well worth the extra cost to give you a little extra room.

Use a Wheeled Suitcase

The less time spent hauling around a heavy suitcase, the better.  Invest in a good-quality case that isn’t going to snap a wheel on its first time out and try to pack light.

Stretch Often

If you’re on a long flight, get up and stretch your legs often.  (You may want to let the flight attendant know why you’re pacing the aisles.)  If you’re on a long car ride, allow for frequent stops to stretch.

Consider a Layover

Most people prefer a direct flight but a layover might give you time to stretch and give your back some relief from that cramped airline seat.

Pack a Neck Pillow

It’ll help keep your spine straight while you try to sleep in that uncomfortable airline seat.

Avoid Stress

Stress contributes to back pain.  Planning your entire itinerary will help relieve some of the stresses of traveling.  Be sure to prepare for the worst-case scenario so you’re not caught off guard on your trip.

Bring a Lightweight Backpack

Carrying a heavy purse or bag over one shoulder while you’re spending the day seeing the sights can wreak havoc on your back.  Instead, use a backpack (using both straps) and carrying only the essentials for the day.

Bring Baggies

You can get ice from the ice machine at your hotel or if you’re feeling pain on your flight, your flight attendant can fill your baggie with ice.

Stay Hydrated

Water keeps away pain by circulating oxygen and other healing nutrients throughout your body.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

This should be a given for anyone with back pain.  Avoid high heels and wear shoes with adequate arch support and a good insole.  Comfortable shoes are even more important for traveling where you may be sitting, standing, or walking for long periods of time.

See a Chiropractor

If traveling is or has caused your back pain to flare up, a visit to a chiropractor may get your back back on track.  A Chiropractic adjustment to your spine may be able to undo some of the damage done by long hours in uncomfortable positions.

At North County Pain Relief, we perform gentle, low-force realignment to treat back pain as well as targeted trigger point therapy.  We strive to make our facility a relaxing and caring place for you to become well again. Why? Because we know it’s good to be home.

Call North County Pain Relief at (314)731-4201 to make an appointment today!