Chiropractic Blog Section

8 top tips for travelling with back pain

According to the NHS, lower back pain causes more disability than any other condition, affecting nearly 1 in 10 people and becoming more common with increasing age. The condition is most common here, in Western Europe, with many travelling with back pain.

Another study shown on the NHS website (written by the Mail Online) reveals that slouching and driving for long periods without breaks is causing 8 in 10 Britons to suffer from severe lower back pain. This includes sprains, strains, bulging discs and chronic pain. These conditions can all prevent people from taking their dream holiday and/or making their daily commute unbearable. 

Writing this as a London-based chiropractor, I recommend that if you’re in pain, it’s a case of dealing with it as soon as possible – especially if you have a holiday looming!  Sadly, so many people come into the chiropractic clinic in a panic before their holiday, worried traveling with lower back pain will ruin their plans. 

If this sounds like you, get yourself assessed by a professional who can provide guidance on the best environment for healing, and strategies to prevent further flare ups.  

Here are some top tips for travelling with back pain while you’re on holiday. 

    • Book the best seat. If you are lucky enough to fly with more leg room – or even first class, this extra space is great news! However, most of us travel in a standard upright seat with limited leg room. In these circumstances I recommend booking an aisle seat so that you can get up regularly with as little disruption as possible. Here are a few travel friendly mobility exercises you can do while traveling (only suitable if they are within your pain free range).

  • Focus on mobilising your spine, hips and glutes every day on holiday. Switching the glutes and core on can take the pressure off the back. 
  • Plan ahead. Preventing possible injuries is the secret to avoiding back pain. For example, exercise correctly. This is best done using an experienced personal trainer or Pilates instructor. Some trainers have a fantastic eye for detail and precision which is really important for injury prevention. 
  • Travel light. Think about what will you really need while you’re away and leave behind everything else! For hand luggage, preferably use a small backpack and make sure the straps are tight and fitted so it doesn’t weigh down too hard. If you are taking luggage to check-in, keep it light and make sure it has wheels. Think about how many times you’ll need to lift it during your trip (putting it in an overhead locker on the flight, lifting it into the car etc). And remember to lift with your legs and hip hinge, not your back.
  • Use your jacket or sweater as a pillow. You can take your own pillow but remember that’s another thing to carry! Using this lumbar support really does help cushioning, straightens the spine, prevents slouching and alleviates pressure. 
  • Pick a hotel with a pool and/or Pilates facilities This is a nice way to gently keep things moving properly. Remember to listen to your body; if you feel pain it’s telling you something’s not right. It’s likely your posture or exercise is the problem, so I recommend you work with an experienced Pilates instructor. When it comes to swimming, keep your spine straight as this is its optimum position (no breaststroke). Front crawl with your head in the water, backstroke or, if you prefer, something more steady… Sculling is a nice way to move in the water. If you aren’t a great swimmer, using floats to move around in the water can still be good, as it minimises the effects of gravity and takes the strain off your joints. Moving around is better than sitting around. 
  • Watch your diet! We can all be a little too blasé about what we eat, especially while on holiday. Remember that inflammatory foods (such as sugar, fried food, artificial additives) are likely to contribute to your discomfort. Eating foods with good nutritional value such as oily fish, blueberries and broccoli will provide your body with a better fuel source for repair. As a general rule, less processed food choices are always better. Obviously, we want to experience the culture and cuisine of our destinations, but all in moderation, balanced with healthy meals. Eating the wrong foods can cause inflammation and lower intestinal bloating which can switch off your core and result in an overused, sore back.
  • Keep hydrated. Fluids are important to keep our cells and discs at optimal potential. Discs are the spongy shock absorbers between each vertebra in our spine; if they aren’t hydrated, the transition of shock when our feet strike the ground is increased up through our spine. If you feel bloated when you drink a lot, try increasing the amount of water-rich foods you eat, such as cucumbers and tomatoes (both contain 95% water). 

Happy holidays from Karen at KH Chiropractic Aldgate. For more information or a pre-holiday treatment, please call 020 3633 0565 or email Karen at