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How to Avoid Back Pain from Flying

Travel pillow, passport, ear plugs, head phones, and Doctor Hoy’s topicals

8 Tips for Preventing Back Pain on an Airplane

Back pain after a plane ride is not how you want to begin a business trip or kickoff summer vacation. Backaches are a common downside to longer flights, and people with chronic back pain might experience flare-ups during or after air travel. Find out why flying makes back pain worse and what you can do to prevent and avoid back pain with Doctor Hoy’s® for on-the-go pain relief.

Why Does My Back Hurt on Airplanes?

Airplane cabins are pressurized for safe travel at high altitudes. Changes in pressure, temperature, and oxygen levels along with the low humidity of being above sea level can all influence the body's normal functions and make joint pain and stiffness worse. Sitting for a long time crammed into tight quarters can also promote bad posture and leave you feeling tense and uncomfortable.

Man sitting on airplane looking out window

For many, it is normal for your body to hurt after flying. Minor aches and pains, bloating, jet lag, swollen feet, and minor stiffness are all common side effects of air travel. However, flying usually makes existing back pain feel worse as well as arthritis, neuropathy, and other chronic pain conditions.

How Doctor Hoy’s Helps Back Pain from Flying

Whether you have chronic pain or just want a simple, effective way to alleviate back pain from flying, Doctor Hoy’s Natural Pain Relief Gel helps relieve back aches, sore muscles, and stiff joints. Our topical gel uses natural camphor and menthol for a warm-to-cool sensation that helps reduce inflammation and soothe muscle tightness and soreness. For those who prefer an unscented topical pain reliever, our Arnica Boost Recovery Cream is also great for stiff muscles and joint pain.

Person applying Doctor Hoy’s Pain Relief Gel Roll On to lower back

The natural ingredients in Doctor Hoy’s also mean minimal side effects compared to OTC pain relievers and NSAIDs. Doctor Hoy’s 3oz Roll-On Gel is suitable for air travel, meeting the TSA liquids rule, and has an easy, hands-free application that’s great for hard-to-reach areas like your back, shoulders, and neck. Safe for repeated application, the natural topical analgesic is best kept in your carry-on for pain relief when you need it.

8 Tips for Traveling with Back Pain

Back pain on an airplane is common, but also preventable with the right preparation and mid-flight strategies. Here are eight ways you can keep your back from hurting while flying:

Plan Ahead 

Slow lines, confusing airport layouts, and crowds of strangers are among the many things that can make flying stressful. You can reduce stress by planning ahead. Book your flight early and for a time when there are fewer people flying. While cutting down travel time might look tempting for an international flight, layovers give your body a chance to stretch out and relieve built-up stiffness.

Frequent fliers should take advantage of their rewards points to upgrade to business class or first class for the added comfort. Otherwise, opt for an aisle seat or exit row with more legroom.


At high altitudes, the air has low humidity and about half of the air circulating throughout the cabin is pulled in from outside. Low humidity can cause dehydration, and when the inner gel of the discs in your spine lack hydration, they become more susceptible to strain. Drink plenty of water before and during your flight, even if it means more bathroom trips.

Pack Light

Shouldering a heavy carry-on and hefting it up into the overhead bin causes you to risk straining your shoulders, neck, and back. Save the heavier items and nonessentials for your checked luggage. A lightly packed carry-on should include your wallet, ID, itinerary, entertainment and comfort items, as well as necessary medications and toiletries. You can also ask a flight attendant to help you store your carry-on.

Woman placing carry on bag in overhead bin on airplane

Bring a Pain Reliever

If back pain is a given for you when traveling, make sure you have your pain reliever with you in your carry-on. While some fliers take an anti-inflammatory before their flight, using Doctor Hoy’s topicals provides fast-acting, long-lasting relief as soon as you need it. You can also pair Doctor Hoy’s with therapy tape on your back or shoulders to reduce muscle stress and encourage blood flow. 

Woman packing luggage with travel pillow and Doctor Hoy’s pain relief gel

Watch Your Posture

Improving your posture can help prevent back pain from flying. Airline seats can be uncomfortable, and we may strain ourselves trying to find a bearable position. Sitting also puts stress on the discs of our spine. Here is how to sit on a plan with lower back pain and better posture:

  1. Sit with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor to offset excess stress on the lower back.
  2. Place a pillow or lumbar support roll behind your lower back and the back of the seat.
  3. Rest your upper back and shoulder blades on the back of the seat.
  4. Gently pull your chest up so your shoulders are even with your collar bone.
  5. Avoid bending your neck and instead support it with a neck travel pillow.

Man sitting on plane with travel neck pillow for postural support

When seated, make sure the pressure is on your thighs and not your tailbone, as this can put too much pressure on your joints. Keep your head up rather than looking down at your phone to avoid tension in your neck that could cause headaches like migraines. Lastly, do not recline the airline seat as this encourages slouching.

Move Regularly

The air pressure in an airline cabin is low, causing your body to take in less oxygen, which can make you feel tired. Instead of slumping over in your seat for a quick nap, get up and move. Taking a quick stroll to the back of the plane or stretching while standing once every hour takes stress off your spine and keeps your muscles active to ease stiffness. You can also adjust in your seat every 20 minutes to relieve pressure in your upper legs and buttocks.

People walking in aisle of airplane

Stretch When You Can

Stretching increases blood flow and improves flexibility in your muscles and joints, preventing pain and stiffness. When standing, bend forward and back then side to side for a full back stretch. Stretch your shoulders by placing each arm across your chest and clasping your hands behind your back while pulling your chest forward.

While seated, you can stretch smaller muscle groups like your neck, your calves, and your feet and ankles. Pulling your knee up to your chest while sitting up straight and holding the position for 30 seconds takes pressure off your lower back to relieve tightness. You might also consider having resistance bands on hand to stretch during layovers.

Ask About Accommodations

Some airlines will make accommodations for medical situations. A note from your doctor can let the flight crew know what you need, especially if you have a chronic condition or are recovering from surgery. Common services include wheelchair assistance, carrying your luggage, and tips for traveling with medical devices.

Wheelchair in an airport lobby

Flying with Doctor Hoy’s

Need clean, safe, and effective relief for back pain on an airplane? Doctor Hoy’s fits easily inside your carry-on bag for fast-acting, long-lasting relief while waiting in line, in your seat, or between flights. Choose the roll-on gel for on-the-go relief in an easy-to-use tube, or use Arnica Boost Recovery Cream for anything from dehydrated and irritated skin to stiff muscles. When you fly with Doctor Hoy’s, you fly pain free.


6 Ways Airplane Travel Affects Your Body + How You Can Prepare. (2018, December 14). Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic.

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