Tips for Traveling with Back Pain

By Dr. Kevin P. McCarthy

People living with back pain know that the travel associated with holiday get togethers can sometimes put a damper on family fun. Flying can cause flare-ups and worsen chronic back pain for many people. Here are 5 key steps to take before and during your flight to better manage your back pain.

  1. Timing is everything.
    When you book your flight, think about the type of schedule that will be the least stressful. Consider taking a flight at off peak times to avoid long lines and periods of standing such as check-in and airport security. Don’t schedule a flight that will require you to wake up extremely early.
  2. Get seat smart.
    In coach, exit rows have more legroom. Always aim for an aisle seat. You won’t have to climb over people, and it’s easier to stand and stretch, or take a quick stroll.
  3. Airport security assistance.
    Call TSA Cares at 855-787-2227 to learn how to get through security more comfortably and easily. They can even assign a helper at the airport. If you want someone you know to go to your gate with you, ask your airline for a pass that allows the person through security without a ticket.
  4. Ask for a wheelchair.
    Even if you don’t usually need one, consider it. Airports are filled with snaking lines and long walks, which can be a recipe for back pain. You can reserve one when you buy your ticket or just ask for one at the airport. 
  5. Bring pain medication on the flight.
    Whether you are taking prescription or over the counter medications, consider taking your pain medication one hour before your flight to give it time to get into your system. Carry your pain medications together in a clear plastic bag and have them on you at all times, in case you need them during the flight. If you use an over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs (Advil, Motrin), you may want to bring a few extra if the flight is particularly long.

This story is adapted from the resources below. Click the links for even more helpful traveling tips: