Your in-flight physiotherapy guide. Surviving the long-haul

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flight mode

Whether you’re frequently flying or do the odd long haul flight, you may be aware of where the exits are located, but are you aware of the ways you can reduce strain and fatigue on your body during the flight?

Pre-flight:

  • If possible, request an aisle seat. This puts you in a position to stretch out a little more.
  • Try and invest in a neck pillow (to be used for your neck and as a lumbar support) and compression socks, as they help to keep your feet from swelling due to changes in pressure and inactivity during flight.
  • Prior to getting to the airport, I recommend giving your hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles a stretch. These muscles are in a shortened position when your sitting
  • Take the opportunity to stand and walk around the waiting area at your gate prior to boarding; you’ll have plenty of time to sit and relax in the plane

During:

Extended periods of immobility can contribute to aching joints, muscles tightness and swollen feet.  The best remedy to these problems is simply to keep moving throughout the flight, walk around the cabin as regularly and as often as possible.

  • Get up and go for a walk at least once every hour (even more often if you can, there may be some interesting characters you come across in the cabin)
  • Gently stretch your neck, upper back and shoulders; for example, roll your shoulders forward and back, elevate and release your shoulders, and tilt your head side to side, using mid-range of motion. This can be done quite discreetly in your seat
  • Tap your toes and move your ankles in circular motions, this will help with circulation (if you have severe pain, redness, warmth and swelling in your calf/calves notify your flight attendant immediately)
  • Some in-flight entertainment systems provide programs including stretching and relaxation exercises
  • Water, water, water! A common problem of all flights is dehydration, as the air throughout the cabin is not always properly humifidified.
    Travellers may suffer from the drying of the mucus in their mouth and nose, which normally act as a protective barrier to bacteria and viruses.  To prevent dehydration, try drinking water as regularly as possible throughout the flight, an eye-lubricant such as Bion Tears to prevent dry and itchy eyes and for your face I recommend using a night-time hydrating moisturizer.

After:

  • Try and enjoy the long walk to the baggage carousel, it will help to decrease that build up of tightness in your legs
  • When it is bag collection time, technique is everything. It makes the bag feel lighter and keeps you injury free; win-win if you ask me. Remember to keep your abdominals engaged, bend your knees, get as close as you can to the carousel before you even try to lift your bag.

For more information ask your physiotherapist!

1A, NYC bound.

1A, NYC bound.