How to avoid back pain from travelling

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How to avoid back pain from travelling

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One of the most common aspects of travelling is sitting. Whether it’s sitting on public transport, long uncomfortably cramped flights abroad, driving from one end of a country to another – at some point, we need to sit. Holidays are the time where we shouldn’t have a worry in the world. A time to relax from the day to day stress of life – So what can be done to help?

Depending on the seriousness, there are plenty of things that can be done to help back pain while traveling:


  • Drink plenty of water. Water is important for the spine and back.
  • Avoid inactivity. Staying still for lengthy periods of time stresses the spine and can make back pain much worse.
  • Position your feet by propping them up, keeping your knees at a right angle. Doing so keeps stress off the lower back.
  • Maintain a correct posture by sitting upright with your chest pushed out.
  • Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. The more pressure your shoes can soak up, the less strain you will have on your back.
  •  Modifying the sitting posture in your chair. Many people sit towards the front of a chair and end up hunching forward. The better seated posture is to sit back in the chair, utilising its lumbar support to keep the head and neck erect.
  • Sit so that your knees are level with your hips. A rolled up towel or proper back support placed between the lower back and the back of the seat will add comfort and support to the natural inward curve of the lower back.
  • If you are reading or using a laptop, ensure your positioning is ergonomically correct. Keep your back straight and your neck is at no more than a 30 degree angle.
  • Avoid sitting on any objects in your clothing (wallets, phones, coins)


The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles and you can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, all of which can be affected by how we sit. Sometimes the simplest of things can have the biggest impact – for example, driving whilst sitting on your wallet. The slightest raise on one side of your back means the other side has to over compensate.

Aeroplanes have foot support underneath the chair in front – be sure to take advantage of this as it helps support the back (depending on your height). The majority of us travel with a bag – try to avoid sitting with the bag on your back or under your arm. It will mean sitting in an unnatural position for your back.

In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can all complicate matters. Back pain can also directly result from disease of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots, or bone loss.

Physiotherapy and massage are proven to be more successful than home remedies, painkillers and operations. It is important to understand what has been going wrong to try to stop it happening again. A Physiotherapist will assess you thoroughly in order to give you the correct treatment and give you advice on how to travel with less pain. Quite often we find it is simple life changes that can make the world of difference – information you perhaps wouldn’t get looking on the internet or from medication.


If you would like more information or are unsure about the seriousness of an injury, please feel free to use our FREE ‘Ask An Expert’ service to ask any questions you like. One of our trained Chartered Physiotherapists will respond as soon as possible.


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