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How to avoid a stiff neck and back pain during your flight by Brent Wells DC - Bodyworks DW Advanced Massage Therapy

How to Avoid a Stiff Neck and Back Pain During Your Flight: A Guest Post by Chiropractor Brent Wells

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractor Anchorage AK in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment. Enjoy his guest post on how to avoid pain during a flight!

We all know that feeling after a long flight when you’ve got the worst crick in your neck. No matter how much you stretch and rub it, you just can’t seem to get rid of the pain. Or worse, you have a sharp pain in your lower back and feel stiff as you get off the plane. This kind of pain can really make your travels difficult and put a damper on your holiday.

Before you even take a flight, be sure you’re prepared with these pain-friendly strategies. We’ve put together nine tips to help you stay comfy. 

  1. Stretch before, during and after your flight

    Try and keep your muscles as loose and relaxed as possible. You can do some light stretching as you wait before boarding, on the plane itself and afterwards when you get off. There are plenty of “chair exercises” that can help you keep your neck and back muscles less stiff.

  2. Purchase a neck pillow

    Neck pillows are a great accessory to bring as a carry-on. Neck pillows can support your neck as you rest or sleep during your flight. They are comfortable and can prevent you from twisting your neck or back in an unnatural position. This kind of neck support is critical if you suffer from neck pain.

  3. Pack light and don’t lift heavy bags

    Nowadays, everybody is getting on flights with more and bigger carry-ons. Try to keep it light, so you aren’t overloaded with bags as you get on and off your flight. You can even check heavier bags to avoid putting extra pressure on your lower back. If you find you need help, be sure to ask the airline for assistance, too.

  4. Take breaks from sitting

    Especially if you have a long flight, it’s a good idea to get up every hour or so to walk around the cabin. This will help get your blood circulation moving so that your muscles don’t tense up as much. If you suffer from back pain, try to arrange for an aisle seat so you can easily get up and down during your flight to take a little walk.Try taking breaks from sitting to reduce pain during your flight - Bodyworks DW Advanced Massage Therapy

  5. Use self-massage

    If you’re experiencing neck or back pain during your flight, you can also try giving yourself a massage. An easy way to do this is to pack a tennis ball in your carry-on and use it to massage your shoulders and between your lower back and the seat. A tennis ball is all you need to really loosen up your muscles. Many airports offer massages, and it can be tempting to get one before a flight. However, this will only help a bit at the beginning of the flight and disappear by the end of it. Instead, try getting a professional massage the evening that you land. You’ll wake up refreshed and ready!

  6. Try to sleep in a natural position

    It can be difficult to stay comfortable during your flight. Try not to twist or contort your body as you’re looking for a good position to rest. As much as you can, sit with your seat reclined and your body aligned. Here’s where a neck pillow can really help to keep your spine straight and forward as much as possible.

  7. Order your favorite beverage and snack

    Stay relaxed by ordering your favorite beverage and snack, so that you can enjoy the flight. Stress can be a major factor when it comes to back pain, so do whatever stress-free activities you like. Stay relaxed, watched a movie, enjoy a snack – whatever makes you feel comfortable.

  8. Upgrade to first class

    If you’re really struggling with pain on a flight, you can also try to get upgraded to first class, where the seats are wider and more comfortable. You can do this by using your airline points, paying more or bringing a doctor’s note that explains your back condition. Find a way to get a more comfortable seat. Sometimes the investment of first class can make a huge difference to your pain.

  9. Stay hydrated throughout your flight

    It’s easy to get dehydrated on a flight. Be sure to ask for water, or bring an empty water bottle through security to later fill with water. For a long flight, it’s important to continue to drink fluids. This will prevent your muscles from getting stiff or tense during those long hours.

For your next flight, follow these nine tips to keep your neck and back pain away. If you struggle with neck and back pain on a regular basis, you should also consider seeing a chiropractor. A chiropractic clinic can give you professional medical advice about whether you need an adjustment, as well as creating a care plan that involves massage, diet, exercise, and supplements. Don’t just cross your fingers that your pain will go away, make an appointment before your upcoming trip

If your trip takes you to New York City, book a professional deep tissue massage in Midtown or the Financial District with a highly trained massage therapist at Bodyworks DW Advanced Massage Therapy.

Vacation Goals

Vacation: 7 Ways to Plan Your Way to Relaxation

David Weintraub, LMT and owner of Bodyworks DW, writes about ways to destress during your vacation and what to do when you get back.

David Weintraub

Sounds counterintuitive I know, planning to relax. Afterall, a vacation is supposed to be “time off” and a reset for our overworked brains and bodies. And yet…doesn’t if often seem like we come back more tired physically than when we left?!

Often mentally we are able to recharge and refocus. But, physically, our bodies can be just as beaten up from a vacation as when we left. If not more so.

So, what can we do? First, let’s define the goal of the vacation - is it to:

  • Recharge and relax?
  • Visit family?
  • Sightsee and learn about new culture?
  • To accomplish a bucket list goal... Mt. Kilimanjaro anyone?

Take note which of these ideas seem relaxing to you and which seem mentally or physically challenging (or both).

Challenges tend to add stress, not relieve it.

If you want to come back from vacation both mentally and physically rejuvenated, (and that’s not what you are currently getting out of your travels) you are going to have to plan differently.

To help and support you in planning an actual relaxing vacation, here are some of our top tips for what to take into account so that you’ll be able to relax, have a little adventure, and come back with a full tank of gas-in you!

Don’t workout.

To workout or not workout, that is the question. As long as you make a solid commitment with yourself to get back into your exercise routine when you are home, my advice is to skip the workouts. You are going to walk a lot more than normal on most vacations, or if you are just relaxing on the beach, you’ll swim a bit. If you really must workout, try something different than normal like a yoga class on the beach, or a bike / walking tour of the area. The point is to recharge from your routine life, not engage in it while away.

Take your pillow.

Pillows and mattresses in most places you stay are going to range from awful to just okay. Even if your hotel has a super fancy mattress the pillows will likely be huge and fluffy which is actually terrible for you neck. Although you can’t transport your bed from home, you can bring a pillow from home that you know is right for you, or a travel size Tempurpedic (my pick while away) which fits nicely in a carry on.

The right tools.

A sleep mask, earplugs, and/or white noise app to play through your phone might help sleep in a new place with uncertain noise and light. I like finding rain storm lists on Spotify.

Sleep in. Duh.

You totally deserve at least a few days to sleep in! Bracket rest days around adventure days so that you get the best of both. When I travel, I usually like to schedule 3-4 half day sight-seeing tours inside of an 8-9 day vacation. I don’t do them on consecutive days and keep other days to light sights. Some days, despite being someplace fantastic like Rome, I still take a 1/2 day to sit in bed and read a book. Again, this is a break from normal life!

Come back early.

After a long flight, schedule a staycation day to recover rather than try to eek out the longest vacation possible. Traveling is tough on the body and arriving home late in the evening only to wake up the next morning and truck off to work is asking a lot of it. Take a day to recuperate and collect your travel photos into a nice post. You’ll thank me on Monday.

Throw money at the travel headache.

How you get there sets the tone for the stay. Travel is usually a lot of headaches. Once you’re there and settle in it’s great, but the trip itself?! Packing, getting to the airport, getting through the airport, being stuck in an airplane seat for a long time, then getting through the other airport and to your lodgings all take a toll and create lots of stress. Give yourself any small favors that you can afford:  taking a taxi to the airport instead of the subway, spending an extra $25 on extra legroom seats if you are tall, arranging for a car to pick you up and take you directly to your hotel from the airport. You won’t be able to take away all of the stressors but every little bit counts!

Get a post trip blues massage.

Of course I’ll say this, but it really does help to book a massage for that staycation day at the end of the vacation to help recuperate and revive. Sure, most people go for the massage at the hotel while on vacation, and we wouldn’t say no to that. However, that one will be completely erased by the stress of the trip back home. Booking yourself a massage after you get back means that you can head into work the next day fully recharged, de-stressed, and ready for action!

Stress Management for Commuting and Conferences: how to make the necessary evils less painful—for your body

David Weintraub, LMT and owner of Bodyworks DW, writes about stress management tips for injury prevention during commutes and conferences.

David Weintraub

Sitting at a desk for long hours in a workplace with poor stress management is probably the number one source of aches and pains for most workers. This professor goes so far as to say it’s the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of kidney disease!

In our last post we covered some tips for setting up your desk at home to create little to no stress.

In this post, we’ll cover stress management tips for what to do when your job requires time outside of the office. For your commutes, off-site meetings, conferences, etc. All that time you spent optimizing your main work area will go out the window the minute you step away from it.

Here are some stress management tips for commuting without injury

First, let’s talk about how you are carrying your stuff around. I’ll admit that the aesthetic options for over the shoulder messenger bags, purses, and briefcases generally look better. However, they are poorly designed from an ergonomics standpoint. Don't buy into it? Check out this Time article on purses and bags...

You're likely to spend hundreds to thousands of hours hauling your things around. Investing in a good looking rolling suitcase or backpack will save you money in physical or massage therapy later on.

My list of must haves

  • A rolling briefcase/suitcase with a pull out handle (best) or a backpack (2nd best). Hauling your life around in an over the shoulder bag, large purse, or briefcase with just a handle is asking for a shoulder or low back injury.
  • Get both! If you're carrying enough stuff around to require 2 (or more) bags, get a rolling suitcase and a backpack. That combo will give you the same “carrying real estate" in the most body friendly package.
  • An iPad with a folding bluetooth keyboard and a light folding stand can handle most computing needs outside of the office these days. Unless you are doing heavy duty photography, graphic design, video editing, or crunching vast amounts of data, invest in an iPad. Your shoulders will thank you for losing the extra weight of the laptop.
  • The right footwear. If I had my way in the world, heels would be completely abolished as footwear. They alter your center of gravity, and do all sorts of nasty things to your spine. The long-term impact of wearing heels is a leading factor for back pain, knee pain, and neck pain. At minimum, switch to a comfortable, cushioned, pair of flat shoes whenever you are going anywhere outside of work. That includes the to and from commute as well. This is one of the few instances where carrying the extra weight around is well worth it.

Additional stress management tips

  • Remember to switch sides when carrying your bag. Give the side you “lead with” a rest.
  • Store as many paper files in digital format that you can get away with. Pound for pound digital files weigh nothing. 
  • If you are hauling around gym clothes everyday, do they fit in a rolling suitcase/backpack combo along with all of your work stuff? If not, it might be time to rethink things. The extra bag is undoing many of the health benefits you are getting out of the gym in the first place. Look into a gym close to home instead of near work. Try switching workouts to first thing in the morning (pre-shower). This is often one of those “best is the enemy of good” situations. The gym near work might be nicer, but you would really be better off with a decent one close to home.

Conferences & Meetings are a Pain in the Butt

For off-site meetings and conferences, the main problem is lack of control over your seating and the expectations for how long you’ll have to sit in session.

Meetings in conference rooms usually have better chairs, so that’s a plus. However, if you need to get up and stretch or even stretch at your seat, you're going to feel a bit weird with people around.

Your best bet is to try the following well ahead of the meeting:

  • Do 5 minutes of stretching before you get to the conference room. You likely won’t have time during the meeting itself. If you don’t have a good place to do that, honestly, use the bathroom.
  • Request that the meeting take 5 minute breaks every hour (at the minimum) to be able to stand up, stretch, walk around a bit, etc. Best is to bake this into the agenda long before the meeting time. If you're attending someone else’s meeting, you can always request this at the beginning before it starts. If you feel uncomfortable asking, you can always “white lie” and say that you have a medically diagnosed low back injury and your doctor has advised this. The others in the meeting will probably thank you for the reminder for self-care.
  • Can’t do the above either because you won’t ask, or because the request was denied? Take 5 minutes anyway and go to the bathroom every hour.

At the meeting or conference:

  • When you arrive, play with the settings on your chair to adjust the height to a comfortable level. During the meeting, try adjusting the height slightly up or down whenever you get a bit sore. This will make you use slightly different muscles and give the ones you just used a break.
  • If you find that you tend to cross your legs only in one direction, try switching. Between not crossing, and crossing to the other side every 15 minutes or so you may find some comfort. This will help relieve your muscles from getting stuck into a habitual asymmetrical pattern (which leads to a repetitive stress disorder).
  • For the really bold, take your shoes off under the conference table and/or attend meetings with laceless shoes that are easy to slip on and off.

For conferences, try the following tips:

  • Pick a spot towards the back or the outside of the seating rows. You'll have an easier time moving around and won’t worry as much about disturbing anyone.
  • If you are in a larger group, less eyes will be focused on you. Feel free to practice some in chair stretching during the lectures. We have a number of useful quick tutorials for workplace stretching on our YouTube channel.
  • Check in with yourself during a lecture. Are you really interested in the topic and material or just going through the motions because someone else thought this would be “good for you?” If you feel like you're getting little out of it, dropping out and getting a quick snack would be a great self-care practice. Check the list of other available opportunities for something more interesting while you're out! Nothing is more stressful than boredom or feeling like you are wasting your time.

The more you can be a leader in the workplace and make small changes for your own health and stress management, the better you’ll feel. As people start to notice how much happier you seem, the more likely it will be that people will start following along and practicing their own stress management. Hopefully, over time, the whole culture around you starts to shift and you'll be dealing with far less stress overall.

In our next post, we’ll cover travel tips for planes, trains, and automobiles!