back pain from sitting, trip wellnessPost updated – December 15th, 2014

It’s the time of year when families are traveling together, couples are planning to get away, empty-nesters are working through bucket lists of places to visit. Hard earned time off, savings, reservations and frequent flier miles are being managed. It all can derail quickly if you end up with back pain and too uncomfortable to enjoy your trip.

How do you avoid back pain from sitting when traveling?

Any one of us who takes off regularly has a personal travel regimen and strategies. Discovering those can take time and a lot of trial and error. It helps to get pointers from experts and one I’ve enlisted is Chiropractor, Dr. Janis Prout.

Dr. Janis Prout, back pain from sitting, trip wellness

Dr. Janis Prout

She sees patients in pain daily. When they’re getting ready for a trip, she helps them prepare, but often they return home in worse shape! Back pain from sitting is just one of the issues she helps with.

Twelve tips to avoid back pain from sitting:
  1. Break time – Our bodies are not designed to be sedentary. Get up out of your airplane seat to walk and stretch at least once every hour. On the road stop the car and do some stretching. When traveling with family frequent breaks are really important. You may feel the push to keep going and get to your destination. Dr. Prout encourages her family to add an extra hour to travel time for breaks. “I make my dad or whoever it is, pull over and walk around.”
  2. Rolling luggage – Pulling is OK but switch hands and pull with the opposite hand when you think of it. When you don’t switch arms and constantly favor one side, one shoulder and hand is more likely to develop soreness.


Listen to the Gathering Road Podcast and the interview with Dr. Janis Prout or download the MP3 to listen later.

More tips to avoid back pain from sitting:


  1. Wallets – Guys, take your wallet out of your back pocket – Sitting on a wallet torks and twists, the side of body that you habitually hold your wallet in. Muscles pull to compensate and that can lead to pain.
  2. Gas pedal – Keep your right foot straight and the toes tilted up towards the sky. Avoid tilting your right foot to help your hip stay relaxed.
  3. Wedge – When sitting in a car or on an airplane for a long time have a little wedge under you. They can be ordered online and have a hole for the sacrum and coccyx, which takes pressure off the low back. The wedge is slightly larger in the back and smaller towards your knees, which helps with reducing low back fatigue.
  4. Wedge 2 – Roll up a towel (and put rubber-bands on the ends) as a wedge to help support your lower back.
  5. Wedge 3 – Use the rolled towel vertically when sitting as well. Lean into it, which helps the chest to open up a little bit and extends the back. Play with positioning it and see what feels good to you.
  6. Desk work – When working in your office (or in your hotel room) ergonomics are a huge issue. Have an office mate, or travel buddy, take your picture when you’re not paying attention and look to see if you can adjust how you sit for better balance and posture. Remind yourself that it’s healthiest to have 90 degree angles for your knees, hips and elbows.
  7. Tray table – When using your laptop or eReader on a plane: It’s best to bring your monitor closer to eye level. Put a book under the laptop to raise it, then use an external keyboard on your lap to help avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
  8. Cell phone – Be mindful when using your cell phone don’t force your neck into ‘flexion’, odd twisted angles. When texting be careful about your neck angle as well and keep the phone raised.
  9. Leaning – When driving you may want to lean on the armrest or door.  Habitual leaning is no friend to the spine. If you’re a leaner, put some double sided tape on the door handle so when you lean it’s a reminder to stop. Lean on the other side too for balance but it’s best not to lean at all.
  10. Crossed legs – When crossing your legs also, switch off and do it evenly. Crossing your legs can lead to lower back and hip pain.

We are designed to move.

Dr. Prout has a 98 yr. old patient who walks with a cane just for balance issues but doesn’t use a walker or wheel chair. The secret?  She exercises every day of her life and believes that’s her key to longevity.

“Movement is life to a joint.” We have to keep moving through our days. Find out more about Janis’ work at: I hope these tips will help you avoid back pain from sitting.

Find other travel ease books and audio for flyers and drivers at: