Decreasing Back and Neck Pain When Traveling

Traveling for prolonged periods of time often leaves you feeling stiff and sore, but there are steps you can take to help.
Let’s face it, perfect posture eludes most of us, which causes all sorts of aches and pains. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who gets to travel first class, the cramped seats of coach are not your body’s friend.The seats typically do not have the proper support for your lumbar (low back) or cervical spine (neck), which further promotes poor posture. (Think about when you travel. What kinds of weird postural positions do you get in to try and get comfortable?)
When you sit for a long time with poor posture, the weight of the head on your neck is increased and pulls your shoulders forward. This creates excess force on the spine in the neck and tightness in the neck and chest muscles. You also begin to overuse the muscles along the spine, creating increased tension and pain in the back.
The first thing you can do to help is to get up. Getting out of your seat and walking around helps to increase the blood flow and oxygen to your muscles. Try to do this every 30 minutes.
Here are some additional exercises you can do right from your seat.
Chin Tucks

  • Sit with your shoulders and head flat against the back of your chair. Tuck your chin in (give ​yourself a double chin!) Hold as long as possible.

Chin tucks 1Chin tucks 2
Pelvic Tilts

  • Tilt your pelvis under. (Curve your spine) Then switch and arch your back.
  • Repeat as many times until you being to feel some relief in your low back.

Pelvic Tilts 1 Pelvic Tilts 2Pelvic Tilts 1
Levator Scapulae Stretch

  • Keep your torso upright while seated in your chair.
  • Turn your head to one side and look down into your armpit.
  • Bring the arm on the same side as you are looking up, placing your hand behind your head.
  • Place the opposite arm behind you back. Gently pull your head down at an angle towards armpit until you feel a stretch.
  • Hold and repeat.

scap stretch
Performing these exercises during your travels will hopefully leave you able to enjoy your trip without feeling like you’re still on the plane.
By: Summer Sanders, PT, DPT
Summer Sanders received her bachelor’s degree in General Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a focus in biological sciences, health sciences, and psychology. She completed her doctorate in physical therapy in 2013 at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Summer’s interest in physical therapy stems from years of playing field hockey, soccer, basketball, golf, and competitive piano. Her compassionate approach during treatment in based on previous work and observation in skilled nursing facilities, long-term acute care facilities, and orthopedic clinics. Summer was introduced to React Physical Therapy while completing her final clinical rotation at UIC.
 To learn more about React Physical Therapy visit
Like  us on Facebook at Therapy
Follow us on Twitter @BeReact. 
Follow us on Instagram @ReactPT