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Air travel coming up ...

AKguyAAKguy Posts: 49
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hey all,

We will be traveling in a little more than a week (family trip to visit "the grandparents" in two States) and since my sitting tolerance isn't great, I'm a bit concerned. When we made these plans the surgeon thought it would be fine.

I've been back to work for a couple weeks, but stand more than sit. Went to a three hour meeting this afternoon and probably sat half the time and stood/walked the rest.

This will be my first post-surgery air travel (microdiscectomy at L5/S1). Any suggestions on what you have found helpful? Obviously standing up to stretch when I can, trying to nab a pillow for the small of my back, etc. Other suggestions? Have several flights coming up over a 3 week period, the longest will be about 4.5 hours.



  • Ok, Paul, I can think of several things to do with that pillow, none of them necessarily helpful to my back....lol

    Seriously, for lumbar, not sure you want that thing wrapped around your neck. That might change your posture in a weird way and aggravate the back. I don't know. At this point, almost everything looks antagonistic to the lumbar spine. Other options: sit on it, hug it, throw it at someone.....

    Hey, I'm on a plane this Sat morning too and really worried as well. Not so much the sitting, which I expect to be a problem, but the take-off and landings...all that force and pressure.

    AK, I think getting up and moving around is a good idea, and I'm not sure about the take-offs, etc. I'm planning on doubling up the pain meds right up-front - preemptive strike I guess. Good luck!
  • Get your seat on the isle. I like to get up as soon as I can. If I am back towards the restrooms then you can loiter there a bit.

    I always fly ecomony- but if you are flying Alaska Air- if available minutes before your flight you can upgrade to first class for $50- you just have to ask before you board.

    Take a pain pill and muscle relaxer before you take off if you can.

    Good luck AKguy,

  • Hi AKguy,

    My surgeon gave me 3 months before he will clear me for air travel. Takeoffs should not be a problem, as you should not experience more than 1g ( ie normal gravitational force we experience on the ground ).
    Landings, depends on pilot's egos :)
    Try and upgrade if you can, or have a chat to the cabin crew/flight attendants about your condition.
    Have a safe flight.

  • Surgeon had cleared this ahead of time before we bought the tickets, but I don't know if I'm healing as fast as he projected, so yes I am a bit worried.

    I've been off meds for quite a while, but might be worth considering taking some as a precaution for the trip. At minimum I'm of course bringing them with me, so I will have them if needed. I also have a pack of oral steroids I'll bring ... my PM doc prescribed that for me last year prior to be heading out to a remote part of Alaska. That is more an emergency use only option. But if I do something stupid, it would be there.

    While the upgrade to First Class sounds good,the flights in and out of Alaska in the summer are usually packed solid ... so I'm not terribly hopeful. Also my son is nervous about flying, so he may need the moral support. At least I have an aisle seat for each leg of the flights.

    My PT just told me that one issue with air travel is the vibrations of the plane tend to desicate the discs, as well as not being able to change position as often as you'd like. I have a wedge type pillow I bought a year ago that I'm going to bring in when I see her next week, she said that might be helpful to sit on to dampen the vibrations a little. But she wants to evaluate it first to make sure it is a good position for my back to be in. She had me sit on a wedge and doughnut type pillow as a test ... for me the doughnut pillow was worse than none at all.

    If I get any more helpful last minute hints, I'll post them.

    The other thing I want to ask her about is carry-on choice. Small backpack vs. a rolling case of some sort. My son can lug the big check thru bag.

  • I have severe nerve pain and I just had to fly cross-country for a mandatory family vacation. I took Valium (only 5 mg) 1/2 hour before takeoff.
    Relaxed me enough for a 3-1/2 hour flight. I usually do not take Valium - just for MRI's and flying.
    And I would definitely choose the rolling case!
    Good Luck!
  • I have done everything from travel in my brace post fusion to travel many times since for business and vacation. Try to get a bulkhead seat if possible (if you cannot perform emergency evacuations, do not sit in this isle). The best way to secure this is get to the airport as early as possible and most likely the person at the gate will be the one clearing those seats (my husband is a pilot for NWA). Some airlines also have seats set aside for handicapped people, call and ask. If you like heat on your back, I bring along those heat backs that activate and last for 8 hours that you can wrap around your back. Also, you can find cold packs that are non-liquid that are the same (plus, bring along a plug in heating pad). Keep your meds handy to you in your seat with water. Personally, I prefer a roller bag, a backpack you still have to get off and on your back and the twisting involved with that can be irritating. As far as the vibration, you are not living on the plane so I can't see how much damage it will do. But, the least amount of turbulance/vibration would be closest to over the wing. Avoid regional jets, the bigger the plane the better. Good luck!
  • We just got back from a family gathering...the first flight we've done since Chris' back surgery. No kidding....it was really rough; just too much upright sitting in an uncomfortable seat. Chris got up and walked around several times but he still was in agony both directions. You might try bracing your body a bit with your forearms on the arm-rests for landings and during a lot of turbulance...it can take a bit of the pressure off you spinal column. We have a small lumbar pillow that automatically inflates that we got at a back store. It was very useful.

    We travelled on weekend days and the airports were really busy. I worried about Chris as much on land with all of the crowds as I did in the air. Make sure you take your time and just prepare for some discomfort.

    Have a great trip in-between those flights. Terri
  • im recovering from spinal surgery decompression l4/l5 still in alot of discomfort and feel quite weak. due to fly in afew days is it too soon to fly for a family christening. anxious about everything to do with it airport/flight/landing etc. anyone can give me an opinion or help please thanks
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