Many people visit osteopaths due to the discomfort caused by long-haul flights. As many of you may know, this can quite literally ruin your holiday. If you are lucky enough to be travelling somewhere nice this summer, the following advice may help you stay stretched out so that you are not too uncomfortable when you do get off that plane.
1/ Move as often as possible – aim to move around every 45 minutes to an hour.
2/ Use a pillow to support the base of your lower back.
3/ Know your weaknesses – if you do suffer with pain either consistently or episodically, try visiting your osteopath or manual therapist a few days to a week before you fly to help reduce the chance of a flare up.
4/ Use the following seated exercises to help keep yourself mobile. If you do suffer specific problems, speak to a specialist before you go to ensure that you’re not going to irritate your symptoms by performing them.
- Place the hand of the opposite side to your pain on your head (i.e. if your right hurts, use your left hand).
- Use your hand to gently pull your head forward, and to the opposite side of the pain (i.e. if your right hurts, your head should be bent to the bottom left).
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, ensuring you do not go into pain.
- Take a deep breath in, and pull your head a little further during the out breath.
- Repeat 3 times.
- At the end of the third stretch, use the hand on top of your head to push it back to a neutral position, in order to avoid activating the stretched muscles.
- Sit in a chair or stand up.
- Place your head in a neutral position so that you are not looking up or down.
- Pull your head backwards giving yourself a double chin (again ensuring that your head stays straight and does not arch backwards or bend forwards).
- Repeat the exercise 10-12 times.
- As long as it does not start to cause pain, this exercise can be completed many times throughout the day.
- Sit upright in a firm chair.
- Cross your arms over your chest so you have each hand on the opposite shoulder.
- Take a breath in, and slowly twist yourself to one side to where you feel a stretch.
- Hold that position and then return to neutral whilst breathing out.
- Repeat to the opposite side.
- Complete this exercise 5 times on each side.
- Sit up straight in your seat.
- Place one hand behind your back.
- Push your body backwards into your hand.
- Hold the pressure for 15 seconds before slowly releasing.
- Repeat this movement 5 times.
- Sit towards the front of your seat.
- Place your hands in front of you and bend forward as if diving into a swimming pool.
- This should create a curve in your spine to help separate the joints.
- Ensure the stretch is not painful.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this 3 times, each time stretching a little further.
- Sit towards the edge of your seat.
- Straighten one leg out in front of you.
- Keep the opposite leg bent.
- Lean forward, sliding your hand down the straight leg towards your foot.
- You should get a stretch at the back of your leg, hold it for 30 seconds before slowly returning to normal.
- Repeat the same on the opposite side.
- This can be done 3 times on each leg.
NB: ensure no pain is felt in the back.
Watch out for the following signs if sat for long periods of time:
DVT (most likely in the leg whilst flying) – a condition where a blood clot forms and becomes lodged in one of the major deep veins of the leg.
- Pain, swelling and tenderness in your legs (usually one calf).
- A heaviness in the area.
- Palpable heat and redness of the skin in the area.
Ensure that you seek medical help as soon as possible if you notice any of the above symptoms.