Here’s how to manage back pain during holiday travel, sponsored by The Spine Center

Along with the fun and excitement the holidays bring, chances are high that you or someone in your family will experience back pain this season.

Millions of adults in the U.S. experience persistent or chronic back pain. In this jam-packed season, the stress, the demands of traveling and navigating unfamiliar surroundings all take a further toll on our bodies.

There are several steps you can take while traveling, particularly before and during a flight, to help better manage your back pain.

A frequent traveler himself, Dr. Kevin McCarthy with The Spine Center of Baton Rouge has visited all seven continents and has spent a lot of time on airplanes. He understands the impact on those with back pain and suggests these tips for traveling.

Dr. Kevin McCarthy.


Book flights during off-peak times to avoid long lines. A TSA PreCheck membership can eliminate lengthy periods of standing while awaiting a security review.

Seat selection is key as well. McCarthy suggests choosing an aisle seat for ease of standing and stretching, or taking a quick stroll. In coach, exit rows offer more leg room.

Pack a suitcase with wheels, even if you’re traveling for just a few days. Before lifting
it from the baggage carousel, place your suitcase in front of you and bend your knees.


Chronic back pain sufferers may want to contact airport security for assistance prior
to your flight. TSA Cares can provide more information about how to get through security more comfortably and easily, and even assign a helper at the airport. Reach them at 855.787.2227. If you prefer someone you know to accompany you to the gate, ask the airline for a pass allowing that person through security without a ticket.

Consider requesting a wheelchair, even if you don’t typically need one. Airports are filled with snaking lines and long walks, which can be a recipe for back pain. Reserve one when you buy your ticket or just request one at the airport.


Finally, bring any pain medications onto the flight with you in a clear plastic bag for easy access. Whether you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, consider taking a dose one hour before the flight to allow your body to absorb it.

If you use an over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDS (Advil, Motrin), you may want to bring a few extra if the flight is particularly long.

“As a frequent traveler, I know that crowded planes and lifting luggage can be challenging for back-pain sufferers,” McCarthy says. “These strategies, while simple, can play a larger role in helping to lessen back pain so you can spend more time enjoying your family, friends and surroundings.”