Most of us probably know the basic tips for and surviving a long haul flight; keep moving, hydrate, avoid alcohol and caffeine etc, but what about if you are travelling with back pain or suffering from another ongoing condition?

Our group practice director Laura is a trained Chiropractor but also used to be a long haul flight attendant so we asked her to share her top tips with us.  Check them out below.


Take a pillowcase in your carry on

The pillows you get on a long haul flight are notoriously small and thin and most of us don’t have space to pack a full pillow (if you do have space – take one!) However if you pack a pillow case you can stuff a couple of the airline pillows in it, along with anything else soft, the blanket, your jumper, scarf, etc.  It’s not quite duck down but it does the job and will be much more comfortable on your neck or behind you low back than the flat ones provided. If you are feeling extra fancy get a silk pillowcase – your face doesn’t crease as much on a silk one!

Pack Biofreeze

If you are suffering with any aches and pains or are currently mid-way through a treatment plan for a musculoskeletal complaint then Biofreeze is great to have in your hand luggage.  It offers instant, natural pain relief and the roll-on bottles are under 100ml and don’t spill. Pick up your bottle in clinic.

Choose your seats

Most airlines will let you select your seats at booking or at online check-in and it can make such a difference to your flying experience.  If you are suffering from low back pain or disc issues or just struggle with long periods of sitting and want to stretch out then opt for an aisle seat, it also makes getting up and moving much easier. Emergency exit seats will also give you more space but remember you will have to have all your belongings out of the way for take off and landing and the arm rests tend to be fixed.  For up to date seat maps and tips check out seatguru before you select your seats.  

Pack Light…

..and choose your bags carefully.  This one doesn’t need too much explanation, the heavier your bag(s) the more stress you will be putting on your body.  In general a roll along case is preferable to one that you need to carry and a rucksack is better than a shoulder bag. Check in as much as you can so you can travel light through the airport and so you don’t have to lift heavy items up steps and into overhead lockers. 

(side note, cabin crew can refuse to help you lift particularly heavy bags into lockers and request that they be checked in, even if there is no official weight limit for hand luggage on that airline)


It’s always worth looking into how much an upgrade costs at the time of booking or at the time of check in, it might be less than you think! If a full cabin upgrade isn’t an option look into upgrading your seat or choosing economy plus style products that airlines have started to offer.

Consider a stop-over

If you are flying long haul and have the time, consider breaking up your journey with a stop-over, this could be a couple of hours, enough time to stretch your legs and freshen up or you could stay for several nights.  Some airlines will allow you to book your stop-over for free, even after you’ve booked the flight.

Recline your seat

Make the most of the space you have paid for and recline your seat when you can.  Make sure you tell the person behind you before you do it as a courtesy and put it in the upright position at meal times.

Pack your medication in your hand luggage

If you are on prescription or over the counter medication make sure you have it on you at all times and pack more than you need, it’s rare but checked in bags can be lost or flights can be delayed or diverted. Some airlines will have a small amount of basic first aid items such as paracetamol but don’t rely on this if you know you will need to take something.

Be nice!

You are much more likely to get that extra cushion you asked for or be moved to the aisle seat if you are nice to the crew. A smile goes a long way (and so do treats, cabin crew will never turn down snacks or goodies, they get sick of plane food!)

Get checked by your Chiropractor or Physio

Whether you are in pain or not, it is always worth getting your spine checked before you fly (especially if after the flight you are going to be staying in different beds/driving different cars/doing different activities to your normal ones) our team can address any niggles that are there so you can go ahead and enjoy your trip!

Get in contact to schedule your pre-flight check here!



And before we go….A Don’t!

Even though it is good to keep moving (the guideline is to get up out of you seat at least every hour) it’s a good idea not to do a full on yoga routine in the galleys or aisle …nothing annoys flight attendants more!