7 Ways to Battle Pain During Long Flights

With the advent of economy airlines, flying has become increasingly uncomfortable and it’s necessary to learn to battle pain during long flights. From the rock-hard seat cushions, to the lack of legroom and lumbar support , and the restrictions for moving around — it’s a wonder people aren’t rushing to the nearest massage therapist the second they step off the gangway. When you have to fly more than four hours to your destination and you don’t have the funds to fly in first class, you need to get creative in finding ways to take care of your body, especially your back.

1. Lumbar Back

First, place a small (airline-size) pillow in the lumbar area of your seat, which corresponds to the curve in your lower back, just above the buttocks. You can also try a rolled up blanket or a jacket. Not too much though — make sure it feels comfortable. This will help maintain the normal lumbar curvature of the spine. Try not to slouch and adjust your seat so it tilts back a bit to take the load off your back.

2. Legs

Next, check to see if your feet touch the floor when you sit straight in your seat. If they don’t, place a carry-on bag under your feet so your knees are bent 90 degrees and your back is comfortably aligned. Dangling legs cause hamstring pain and lower back pain because this position stretches the tendons and nerves at the back of the thighs. Pressure on the back of the thighs also may impede circulation.

3. Buttocks

If you feel like your seat cushion is sagging or bottomed-out (which means the spring-like action of the cushion is worn out), then you’ll need to sit on a folded blanket or a jacket. This helps protect your sitz-bones—the area of the pelvis that bears your weight while sitting.

4. Neck

When you’re trying to catch a few Zs, you’ll need to support your head and neck. There are quite a few variations on the theme of the U-shaped boppy pillow for the neck. They come in different sizes, fabrics and densities. The best one will fit under the jawline without choking you and will be firm enough to support your nodding head. Jordan Bishop reviewed 14 travel pillows for Forbes and preferred the REI Self-Inflating Travel Neck Pillow.

Whichever pillow you choose, try to find one that doesn’t cause tension in the neck and shoulder when you lean your head against the headrest.

5. Upper Back

But what if you’ve taken all these precautions and you’re still sitting in pain? You can massage the tight muscles in your upper back all by yourself with the portable KaddyBACK and golf ball.

The KaddyBACK is designed to hold a golf ball in place over the area that needs attention. Drape the KaddyBACK over your shoulder and position the golf ball on the tight muscles. Apply firm pressure by leaning into the back of your seat hands-free. (You can also use a sock but the KaddyBACK can be used hands-free to allow you to multi-task and is much more attractive.) By the time you arrive at your destination you may be able to get some relief.

6. Body Aches

If you’re experiencing tightness in your legs (thighs or calves) or on top of your shoulders (in the trapezius muscle area), or your pecs, the SPABALL Massager is great for rolling a golf ball over the target areas. Both the SPABALL Massager and the KaddyBACK are portable and don’t take up valuable packing space. You could fit them into your coat pocket along with a golf ball and be assured that pain relief is just a massage away. The SPABALL Massager is the same tool used by professional massage therapists world-wide. VIDEO OF SPABALL MASSAGE IN ACTION

7. Feet

A fantastic way to revitalize your feet is to roll a golf ball under the arch of your foot against the floor. This is a bit challenging to do on a plane, so put the ball in your sock so it doesn’t roll away. Just remember to take it out of your sock before you stand up.

Flying doesn’t have to be a sentence for physical torture if you bring along a couple of self-care devices. Consider them your TSA-approved secret weapons and enjoy your flight.

Is It Injured Or Just Sore?

Most people call their massage therapist when they feel tight or sore in their muscles. Stress can cause muscle tightness, especially in the neck, shoulders and back. An hour under a skilled therapist’s hands is very likely to lessen the pain caused by stress or tight muscles as they knead the knots out. But what if the pain is due to injury?

Injury vs. Soreness

One of the contraindications for massage is an injured muscle because the tissues are swollen and torn. Kneading the torn tissue will only increase inflammation and may cause more damage.

The best way to tell the difference between torn muscles and simply sore muscles is to recall when you started to experience pain. Was it sudden? Did you hear a snap or pop while exercising? Muscle-tear injuries often happen during movement and sometimes you can actually hear a tendon pop.

Can you pinpoint a specific place that hurts on only one side? While muscle soreness can be felt in entire muscle groups, such as the back or both arms, injuries are rarely bilateral.

If there is any bruising over the area, this is an injury. With bruising, there may be visible swelling, redness or heat. These are hallmark signs of acute injury, but they are also signs of infection, which is another contraindication to massage.

Pinpoint a Joint

Notice whether the pain is around or in a joint. Joints are surrounded by ligaments, which may experience microtears, like muscles do after a hard workout. However, unlike muscle, ligaments don’t have a great blood supply and take longer to heal. Massaging torn ligaments will not help decrease the pain. Furthermore, massage does not typically address joint pain since joints hurt when the capsule is inflamed or when the bones inside don’t articulate properly. So, if a joint hurts, see a doctor to get it evaluated.

True Soreness

Sometimes soreness may start a couple of days after hard exercise: this is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Once you’ve ruled out acute injury, it isn’t anything to worry about and can be treated with ice, compression, elevation and rest. Normal muscle soreness does get better, especially if you’re taking it easy. If it doesn’t, then it’s probably an injury.

What next?

After the severe pain is diminished, over the course of a week, it’s time to give yourself a massage with the SPABALL Massager. Roll the golf ball over your muscles gently or apply more pressure with the aid of the SPABALL Massager. The golf ball is the perfect size and hardness for muscle manipulation but it’s difficult to control by itself. The SPABALL Massager not only controls the golf ball but also protects your palm when you need to push more deeply into muscles.

A good massage before physical activities can help prevent injuries by improving range of motion and blood flow to the muscles.

You may also consider learning to massage your partner at home to help them with their muscle pain. This video shows how the new SPABALL Massage Kit not only teaches you how to massage at home like a pro, but it is also full of self-care techniques to help you stay pain free.