Sore from Soaring: Air Travel and Your Joints

By Krista Elliott

Whoever said, "It's the journey, not the destination" didn't spend a whole lot of time in airports. For most of us, racing through airports to get packed into economy class like haggard sardines, flying is basically a necessary evil. 

When you think of health risks associated with flying, you might think of things like viruses and bacteria picked up from other passengers. But did you know that flying can also pose a risk to your spine and joints? Oh, and if you're flight crew? Pay particular attention, as this applies to you tenfold. 

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Both passengers and crew can experience a wide range of strains and subluxations caused by their flight. "But we're all just sitting!" you say? Well yes ... and no. Here are some of the reasons why air travel is hard on your joints. 

  • Tension in the head, neck, and shoulders due to stress, which can exert uneven forces on your vertebrae, causing subluxations. 

  • Misalignments in your shoulders and upper back from yanking your suitcase all over the terminal and then hoisting your carry-on bag into the overhead compartment (especially when you have to cram it in there with everybody else's overstuffed bags). 

  • Painful compression fractures in the spine can occur from hard landings, or even from standing on hard surfaces for long periods of time. 

  • Carrying your children while dashing to the gate or assisting a disabled passenger into their wheelchair or seat can result in a herniated disc. 

  • Sitting (or sleeping) for hours and hours on your flight, with little opportunity to move and stretch, can tire out your back and neck muscles, resulting in poor posture and subluxations. 

I Ain't Got Time to Take a Fast Train

Pain notwithstanding, air travel is often the fastest way to get where you're going, particularly if you're looking at overseas travel. So, how to protect your joints and spine? 

  • If you don't have a suitcase with wheels, invest in one. And for your carry-on? Either pick one with wheels as well, one that attaches to your regular suitcase, or a sturdy backpack, to avoid carrying uneven amounts of weight.
  • Wear non-slip, comfortable, supportive shoes. (Don't forget the socks for when you go through security!)

  • Don't be afraid to ask for help, whether you're lifting your bag or assisting a passenger. 
  • Give yourself lots of time before your flight and between connections to avoid spine-damaging stress and slips or falls caused by racing through the terminal. 

  • Bring your own neck pillow for long flights to help keep your cervical spine aligned while snoozing. 

And before your flight, make sure you come by The Joint Chiropractic for an adjustment. Routine care from The Joint helps ensure that your spine and joints are in the best alignment possible, helping you prevent back pain and injury, and improving your flexibility and balance. And if you do have aches and pains post-travel, pop by anytime, to receive precise and gentle chiropractic care that can help relieve pain and speed healing. With chiropractic treatment from The Joint, you'll be feeling first-class in no time!

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