Going On A Long-Haul Flight: Tips From A Physio

Going On A Long-Haul Flight Soon?

We all know that feeling of peeling yourself from your plane seat after long-haul flight with ankles the size of an elephant’s, wondering if your legs still work and a back that is possibly stiffer than a metal rod. 

You know that it’s important to get up regularly and probably had great intentions at the beginning of the trip, but “just one more movie and then I’ll get up” famous last words.

For those with existing problems (i.e. low back pain), the idea of a sitting on a plane for hours can be quite daunting. 

But fear not, there are ways to make this trip easier on yourself.

Keep Moving

It is important to keep moving during long-haul flights.

Movement helps to pump blood around the body which helps to flush pain and inflammatory chemicals away, effectively avoiding and/or decreasing pain.

Encouraging circulation during your flight can also help to prevent foot and ankle swelling, and in more serious cases,  DVTs.

Try getting up from your seat and walking up and down the aisle every hour or so on long-haul flights.

6 Seated Exercises

If you are not able to get up and move, it is still important to keep moving.

Here are some exercises to do while seated on your flight:

 

1. Ankle pumps – point your toes up and down (x20 each foot)

2. Ankle Circles – draw circles with your toes (x10 each direction)

3. Leg Lifts – lift your foot off the floor to straighten your knee (x20 each leg)

4. Seated Marching – bend your knee and raise leg up, alternating legs to march (x20 each leg)

5. Shoulder Rolls – roll your shoulders forwards (x10) and backwards (10)

6. Pelvic Tilts – sit forward in your seat and place you hands on your hips. Alternatively curve and arch your lower back (x10 each way)

5 Standing Exercises

There is usually a small area toward the back of larger planes where there enough room for the following exercises.

There are usually a few passengers doing exercises to keep supple so no need to worry about looking silly.

1. Calf Raises – raise up onto your toes, then slowly lower down (x20)

2. Marching – march on the spot with high knees (x20 each side)

3. Roll Downs – roll your spine down as if you’re peeling yourself from a wall behind you and reaching for your toes. Pause for 3-5seconds. Roll back up (x10)

4. Back Arches – place hands in the small of your back, gently bend backwards (x10)

5. Side Bends – reach your hand to the side of your knee (x10 each side)

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is always important! 

Drinking water has been proven to improve circulation and help reduce back pain.

A little trick is to drink plenty of water not only to stay hydrated but because it will force you to get out of your seat and walk to the lavatory, giving you the motivation to keep moving.

If you are in pain and planning to travel, ask your Physiotherapist if these exercises are appropriate for you.