My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Travelers, relieve lower back pain with this simple tip

2013/06/25by Doug Kelsey

If you have ever experienced back pain, you know how life changing it can be. It’s especially bothersome while traveling and can ruin an otherwise great trip. While hopefully we’ve all commited some time to our One Healthy Change a Month series, there are also quite a few tricks of the trade that can help relieve that terrible Traveler’s Back. Today, Doug Kelsey, a physical therapist, lets us in on a simple, but effective way to combat back pain while traveling.

Air travel can be a real workout. Seats are often unsupportive and rarely fit you well. On some flights, you may not be able to get up and move around. And usually before the flight, you have to stand around or sit for extended periods of time.

Feeling stiff, sore or achy either during a flight or afterward is common and that can certainly put a huge damper on your trip. But the good news is that there is a simple and easy “fix” that you can use to help prevent or reduce travel related lower back pain and stiffness.

Use A Common Beach Toy To Prevent and Relieve Lower Back Pain And Stiffness

pack a beach ball to relieve lower back apin

Your joints are built to move; not sit still for long periods of time. But how do you move around if the pilot has the “Do not get up and move around” sign illuminated? For your lower back, the secret is an inflatable beach ball.

Yep—the kind kids take to the beach.

I use the 12-inch version.

  • Put a very small amount of air in the ball (once you’re in flight, the pressure change will increase the pressure in the ball so you don’t need much air).
  • Place the ball in the small of your back.
  • Increase or decrease the amount of air to your comfort level.
  • About every thirty minutes, move the ball either up or down an inch or two.
  • While in flight, periodically move side to side, forward and back for about a minute—kind of a small rocking motion of your trunk on the ball.
  • When you’re done with the flight, deflate the ball and store for later use.

Why This Works

You may have heard using a lumbar support is a good thing for people with back trouble. The small amount of air in the ball supports your lower back and this simple beach ball is one of the best lumbar supports around because it’s adjustable.

Not everyone has the same curve in their lower back. Some have more; some have less. So, a typical lumbar support that is solid and has fixed dimensions may or may not be comfortable to you. With the beach ball, you can add more air if needed or let some out to get a custom lumbar support.

Because the beach ball is filled with air, it allows you to move in your chair which in turn, moves your spine just enough to keep it from getting stiff. President Kennedy used a rocking chair in the Oval Office to help ease his back pain and keep him from getting stiff. It was the subtle movement of the spine induced by the rocking that did the trick. You’re doing the same thing but with a beach ball.

If you want to upgrade your “tool,” use what I use—an Inflatable, ZafuThis is a meditation tool that you normally inflate and sit on while meditating. And while I have used it for this, I also use it as my custom lumbar support. The cover helps increase the lifespan of the ball and, well, I like the way it looks.

You don’t have to suffer through another plane trip with lower back pain and stiffness. Try the beach ball trick and let me know how it worked for you.

It’s not too late to join our challenge. Click One Healthy Change a Month to read more.

Do you have lower back pain? If so, how do you deal with it while traveling? Let us know in the comments! 

We have included an  Amazon link to Inflatable, Zafu for your convenience but My Itchy Travel Feet does receive a small portion of the sale. Thanks for keeping us in business.

Doug Kelsey is a physical therapist and healthy lifestyle "guru". His blog, Doug Kelsey, focuses on health and fitness tips for grownups.

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