How To: Fly Pain Free On Your Next Holiday

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Flying with pain truly is a nightmare, cramped seats, surrounded by strangers, can't sleep... you get what I mean. Unfortunately, people suffer through this and take more and more medications just to get by. 

Flying usually means you are headed to some long awaited destination for some rest and relaxation, adventure or sight seeing.

We often see people affected with neck or back pain as a result of flying before or after their holiday – a lot of this is easily managed if you know what to do.

We want you to enjoy a happy, healthy and most of all... a pain free holiday, so we have prepared a list of tips and tricks to avoid making your long awaited trip a painful journey.

In this "How To:" we will uncover the reasons why you get pain from flying, some simple things you can do to reduce your pain on your trip and some quick eating healthy tips for your journey

Let's get into it...

Things To Consider For A Pain Free Flight 

Choosing your seat – if you get this right – what a win!

If you’re a Sleeper the window seat is your easy answer – more options for position changes available and you’ll get less disturbed too!

If you prefer to be a "Mover" or perhaps you fidget – choose the isle. Pacing the length of the plane and giving your snoozing neighbour some space is great for keeping your tissues loose and blood flow free flowing – watch out for the pesky hostess trolleys!

Yep, First Class "Apartment" with Etihad... I'm Jealous too! Image: Business insider, link here  

Yep, First Class "Apartment" with Etihad... I'm Jealous too! Image: Business insider, link here  

Neck Pillow - Help or Hindrance?

Don’t skimp by choosing something too cheap and make sure you try it out and test it before you fly. Airports tend to have limited options regarding types and styles so get in to the travel sections of major stores and find your perfect fit.

Ideally something that supports your head on the sides more than just warms the back of your neck.

If you are after some reviews on neck pillows head over here.

This is actually a thing! Image: OSTRICHPILLOW(R) link  here

This is actually a thing! Image: OSTRICHPILLOW(R) link here


Compression Socks

Definitely add these to your pre-flight shopping list if you are going for a long haul flight.

Tips: They need to be tight fitting without turning your toes blue.

These not only help reduce swelling in your ankles and feet from being stationary for extended periods but heavily reduce your risk of getting Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) on those lang haul flights.

Best prevention is still frequent movement. 

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Keep Moving!

Do you follow the herd or have a fear of public opinion, especially from strangers? You feeling fantastic on arrival should be top priority, don't let the funny looks people will give you by you looking after yourself. Standing waiting for your flight is best, add in some nerve glides too if you dare. The back of the plane is fantastic on long haul flights – toilet cubicles work well too. Thinking of standing quad stretches, neck self-snags, seated lumbar and thoracic spine rotations.

Air Yoga Anyone? Image: Huffington Post, link  here

Air Yoga Anyone? Image: Huffington Post, link here

Reading the Right Way

Use your tray table to prop your book a little higher, your head bent that far forward when reading from your lap for extended periods does nobody any favours.

Even better stick to an Audible option through your phone or, if you are easy to please, rely on the on-board entertainment selection of movies. 

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Did you know that most flights allow a maximum of 7kg of hand luggage, I bet you have tried to sneak a few extra items in? Or maybe you stick within the limits but then load it all onto one shoulder – handbag style.

Keep it simple. Every extra kilo of weight is more you have to carry and also lift overhead. 

Only take what you need and if you can spare some duty free shopping grams for a pair of wheels on your carry on luggage, you wont regret it, especially if you are caught running between terminals to reach your plane on time.

You know who you are!

You know who you are!

Luggage Types

The number of different styles of luggage has made choosing the right type even more challenging.

2 Wheels, 4 wheels, no wheeled luggage (they still make these!?), back pack, duffel bag, wheeled duffel bag, weekender bag, garment bag, overnight bag, cosmetic bag... when will the madness end!!


Choosing the right luggage especially if you have experienced back pain travelling really is key. If your not destined to backpack around South America then I highly recommend upright luggage with 4 wheels as they are great for cruising through the airport and can be quickly used with 2 wheels if you have the need for speed.

Choose the lightest and strongest you can afford as these should be an item that can be re-used over several years.

Great Luggage review here from Skyscanner (sneak peak...they drop cars on luggage!!)


Travel Backpacks

The choice you have here is absolutely staggering... so in short, try before you buy. Make sure you load it up when you try them out too as the added weight will give the back pack it's true "feel" on your back.

Remember a good travel back pack is an investment, the last thing you want is to find out you bought the wrong one half way through your trip. Make sure you get the right style for your holiday type as there is a vast difference between wearing a casual back pack and doing a 12 month back packing trip around Europe.

I recommend good lumbar support, hip belt and a chest strap. Sometimes these can all be removable or stow-able too, these features are designed to reduce wearer fatigue and distribute load off your lower back and shoulders.

A very extensive backpack review with recommendations can be found here

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Luggage Handling Tips

Having back pain when you travel can be an anxious and frustrating time as we all know that our luggage is going to be heavy and awkward. Here are some little tips to help you through your journey.

Plan your journey, pack the essentials, we typically always pack too much stuff, if you want some advice on how to pack light? Head over here to the minimalists packing video here. Most places we go have the things you can purchase close by so don't worry if you forget some things. 

Arrive early at the airport so you can take your time checking in and finding your terminal. Rushing to check in creates a stress response in the body that amplifies pain. So be patient, remember you cannot change that fact that airports get busy, so don't worry about it .

At the Airport make sure you use the wheels on your luggage as much as possible, avoid lifting or carrying them for any extended lengths of time. Use elevators when you get a chance. Have lots of bags, don't skimp, hire a luggage trolley! $2 so save your back is an investment.

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At the "Check In" desk, before you place your luggage on the scales at the counter, Take off your back pack / handbag! This adds extra unwanted weight on you and can load up your lower back or neck. You can always put them back on afterwards.

Lifting your luggage, use a deadlift or squat type lift wherever you can, stand as close to your luggage when you lift it. have a travel buddy? Ask them to lift it for you. Remember the #1 way we get back pain is by rounding and twisting our lower back at the same time when we lift.

On the plane, remove all the items you are going to use when you are on the plane (book, neck pillow, passport, pen and tickets for immigration slips, water bottle etc) as this make travel sense but also lightens you bag before you lift it overhead. Still cant lift it overhead? Ask for help!

Getting your luggage off the carousal, waiting here is a perfect time to start to doing some self mobility exercises before you lift your bags, there are a few in this article below that I have got ready for you. Now, when getting your bags off the carousal:

  1. Make sure you have everything ready, get your trolley if you have multiple bags
  2. Position yourself so you can spot your bags early so you know it's on the way and can get to them without rushing
  3. Make sure you have enough room to lift them off the carousal onto the floor, ask your travel buddy to help if required
  4. Instantly pull the handle up and use the wheels so you don't have to carry it

Take Your Mobility KIT!

Our next big tip is to bring a basic mobility pack with you.

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Image: BlackRoll Au, link  here  

Image: BlackRoll Au, link here 

Your trigger ball is the perfect tool to take with you, it is small and light, you can use it at the airport or at your hotel after your trip can help to reduce the effects of sitting for long periods.

Even if you forget these items there might be a few things you can use when you get to your destination – no trigger ball?A deodorant or aerosol can might act as a substitute to get in to those problem areas.

A foam roller takes up too much space, a rolled up towel is a great replacement!

Mobility Hacks To Keep You Pain Free On Your Plane Flight

These are easy and effective mobility exercises to keep you pain free at the airport and some can even be used in the plane. 

Frequency is the key, small amounts often is better than once per day.

NO PAIN SHOULD BE FELT, if you do please see your local healthcare professional, if you are a Perth local and you want your pain sorted before your holiday click here to book your Physio appointment at Fieldwork.

Ok, let the exercises begin!

3 Easy Ways to Move Better At The Airport

Long haul flights take their toll on your body, it becomes stiff, tight and achy from long hours in one position.

While at the Airport it is easy to start to remove these problems by being more active.

Our Director, Ross, runs you through 3 quick Airport Mobility Hacks to get your movement back while waiting for your flight. Covering Ankle / Calf, Hip Flexors and Thoracic Mobility. 

Don't worry about looking funny in the airport, I would rather you feel and move better rather than sit in pain. Besides, you will never see these people again, SO WHO CARES!   

Self Neck Treatment: The Neck "SNAG"

The Neck "SNAG" is a great way to mobilise a stiff and tight neck anywhere, anytime. No equipment needed. 

It combines the best aspects of:

Stretch: taking your neck muscles to the end of their range

Massage: Pressure through the fingers into the muscles relieve tension like a mini neck massage

Joint Mobility: The finger pressure especially into the neck, helps mobilise the neck joints through their range of motion.

Tips: Place pressure through the "pulling hand" into the back and the neck or shoulder into the direction the neck is turning.

The finger pressure provides the massage, the neck rotation provides the stretch.

Neck and Shoulder Loosener: Quick Shoulder Rolls

The Quick Shoulder Rolls are a great way to loosen up the shoulder blades and take pressure off the neck when sitting or driving for prolonged positions

Tips: Start just with a few movements

- Up + Down

- Forward + Back

- Then Circles

Repeat as many times as needed to feel the neck and shoulders loosen.

Rotator Cuff / Shoulder Trigger Points

Treat your Rotator Cuff Trigger points on holiday can be tricky, however, this is an easy fix.

Take your deodorant can and use it exactly like your trigger ball

Tips: Place the deodorant can on the outer edge of your shoulder blade. Roll up and down along your shoulder blade.

Suitcase Carries

To still keep those core gains while you are on holidays, Suitcase Carries is a great exercise to keep in your holiday workout routine.

Simply keep your suitcase heavy enough to challenge your core, deadlift it off the ground with one hand and walk. Watch out for side leaning, think about being tall with nothing in your hand.

Thoracic Mobility: Seated Rotation and Rotation

This is a great thoracic mobility drill you can do with no equipment before, after or during your flight.  The trick during your flight is to do this in the plane bathroom - you actually have MORE space in there than you do in your seat.

The added side flexion movement is actually the key that makes this exercise so effective too so don't forget it.

Best advice, don't take pain with you!

As you can see there is lots you can do to have a pain free flying experience.

The biggest take away from this is to not take pain away with you on your holiday. You will be more susceptible to having a "flare up" if you don't get pain addressed before you head off on your trip. 

If you do have pain or niggle that you would like to get treated before you holiday, click here to book yourself in with one of our Physio's so you can leave feeling great without taking any of that anxiety or pain with you on your long awaited holiday.

Be selfish, keep moving, stay safe, happy flying!